raise the curtain upon one more scene
in the little drama that has been presented in these pages, and then my
task is done. The reader has seen how Mrs. McNabb lived and he is now
invited to a lowly bedside at the old Canadian homestead on the Ninth
Concession, where he is permitted to see how she died.
The widow had taught her family
and had herself practised the matchless and eternal truth that the sum
of life and its greatness does not consist in the wealth, power, or
position acquired, or in the space occupied on the pages of the world’s
history, but in the character attained, and in the performance from day
to day of the simple duties that lie in our pathway. That, and that
only, she counted real success.
The scene at the death of this
great woman is described by Helen, who with Willie, her husband, was at
the widow’s bedside when the last moment came. Katie allowed me to copy
the letter, and I give it here just as it is written :
* * * * * * * *
SETTLEMENT, May 26, 18—.
Willie has asked me to write to you and Colin, and
let you know that your dear mother is gone from us. She passed away last
night, surrounded by all the members of her family with the exception of
you and Colin, and she left her blessing and a message for you both. As
you know, she has not been in good health for six months or more; her
heart bothered her a great deal, and the doctor warned us that the end
might be expected soon. Last Saturday, a telegram informed us in New
York that she was sinking, and that if we desired to see her in life we
must come at once. Willie and I reached here the day before her death.
When we had all gathered about her
bedside, she said, in that dear voice now grown so weak (and oh, Katie,
how worn and spent she looked!) :
"My children, I
have called you to me, because the hour of my departure is at hand, and
I wish to give you my blessing before I go.
"Here, Wallace," she said, handing her first-born
her well-worn Bible, "I am going to give you this book as my last gift.
Won’t you read to me the Twenty-third Psalm?"
Wallace opened the book and read :
"The Lord is my shepherd; I
shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth
me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul."
"Pause a moment, Wallace," said
the widow, "while I tell you all what a Shepherd the Lord has been to
me, how He has led me by the still waters, and how He has so oft
restored my soul." And the good mother, in beautiful, touching, and
tender words briefly sketched her experience since widowhood, and bore
such eloquent testimony to the love, favour, and tenderness of the Good
Shepherd that we all felt as if we were in the presence of one of
Heaven’s saints, as indeed we were.
"Won’t you please finish the Psalm now, Wallace,
my boy?" she finally said. Wallace continued to read —
"Yea, though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art
with me; Thy rod
and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the
presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup
runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of
my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
When Wallace ceased reading, there
was a profound silence in the room for a few minutes, which no one dared
to break. The beloved but wasted form lay before us. The face was lit up
with a smile as if an invisible angel had whispered in her ear.
Presently the lips moved, and although the eyes were still closed, she
said, "How beautiful, how very beautiful! ‘He maketh me to lie down in
green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my
soul. My cup runneth over; I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Then she opened her eyes wide, and
looking at us all in the sweetest manner, she said she felt better, and
asked Lizzie to raise her head and shoulders, and place the pillows
beneath them. After this was done she spoke to each one of us
separately, and gave each a text from the good book, which she must have
selected beforehand in anticipation of the separation that was now at
hand. I shall send you later the Bible, with the passages she had marked
with her own hand for you and Colin.
When she had finished talking to
us, she turned her head wearily to one side, and lay very still. When
she opened her eyes again she motioned to Willie, and spoke with failing
voice, but loud enough for us all to catch the words : —
"Here, my boy, take down the New
Testament and read to me from the fourteenth chapter of John. You will
find the book opened at that chapter. I want you all to know that that
chapter has been a constant wellspring of life to me; and now, when my
last moments are come, I want its sacred music and its promises echoing
in my ears, as I enter the mansion my Father has prepared for me."
We all felt that the end was near,
for her breathing became faster and more laboured; but her face
continued to shine and reflect the glory of the perpetual sunshine into
which the soul was entering. Willie read : —
"Let not your heart be
troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house
are many mansions: if
it were not so, I would have told you. I go to
prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will
come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be
When Willie had reached that
point, his mother raised her hand for him to stop.
"Yes," she said faintly, "that
where I am there ye may be also.’ Just think of it, I shall be with Him,
— with Him in so brief a time! I can almost feel myself going into His
The widow spoke the last words
eagerly, while her face indicated the seraphic nature of her
experiences. The music was very real to her.
Presently she lapsed into
semi-consciousness, but it was only for a moment. When we noticed her
eyes opening again, Willie continued to read : —
"I will not leave you
comfortless. I will come to you."
"He has kept His word," came the
feeble whisper from the widow. "He has never left me comfortless, and
now — He —has — come — for — me." And again the eyes closed.
Willie continued reading in a low,
subdued, faltering voice : —
"Peace I leave with you; my
peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be
afraid. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said I go unto the
For the last time the widow’s
wasted hand was raised. We all held our breath, and waited for her to
"I go," she murmured so low that
we had to bend down to catch the words, "unto — the — Father."
She turned her head sidewise on
the pillow, as if she was very tired.
We all stood silently and
reverently about the bedside. We knew she was gone, but no one seemed
desirous of breaking the sacred silence.