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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXXIX - Willie and Helen say Good-bye

THE evening spent at the home of President Rolphe was, for the boys, a "red letter" one. Mrs. Rolphe exerted herself to entertain them and make them feel perfectly at home, and Mr. Rolphe ably assisted her. Helenís beauty made a great impression on Colin and Jamie, unaccustomed as they were to visions of maidens radiantly adorned.

After the company had participated in a number of games, in connection with which Mrs. Rolphe exercised the greatest tact in seeing that the boys found pleasure and amusement, refreshments were served, and the boys were brought face to face with the imposing butler. Jamie felt, every time he came near, as if, instead of offering to help him to fruit or cake, he might suddenly confront him with some such question as, "What is the chief end of man?" or "What is the eighth commandment?" But he did nothing of the kind, and was very attentive in looking after their wants.

After supper, Mrs. Rolphe, who had heard her husband sounding Colinís praises, took the young man off to the conservatory, where she talked about such subjects as she thought would interest him. She adroitly drew him out and got the boy to talk about himself freely.

Meanwhile, Helen had been telling Willie about a black pony, which her father had sent her for a birthday present a few weeks ago. The hostler brought Darkie around to the driveway, and after the spirited creature had been duly inspected, the young folks sat on the old-fashioned piazza overlooking the west lawn.

"So you are going to the war?" said Helen, turning the conversation, after Darkie had been duly extolled.

"Yes," answered Willie, and not knowing what to say further, like a very sensible boy, said nothing, and there was an awkward pause.

"And youíre not afraid of being shot?"

"Oh, dear, no!" answered Willie. "Iím a bit of a Calvinist, like mother, and if Iím not born to be shot, I shall not be; and besides," he continued, "Colin and I have both unbounded confidence that we shall come off all right."

"After your rescuing me when the railway offices were burning, I donít need to be convinced of your bravery and contempt of danger."

"Pray do not speak of that," answered Willie. "Do you know, it takes more courage for me to talk to you than it did to rescue you from the fire."

"I donít understand what you mean," answered

Helen. "And if I were to place a literal interpretation upon your words, I fear the result would not be flattering to myself. Wonít you please explain to me?"

"Of course, I donít mean that I am not pleased beyond expression to sit near you and talk to you; but somehow, you seem so elevated and so far removed from me."

Helen (she was still but little more than a child) was somewhat startled and amused at Willieís speech. "Having escaped from the burning building, I have no intention of flitting from the world, for a time at least," she said playfully.

After she had spoken, she felt that she had not said exactly the right thing, and so she added: "Please be quite frank with me, Mr. McNabb, and tell me what is in your mind. Iím not really so very different from other girls as you seem to think."

"You have been brought up in a different world from mine. You have had a training and lived a life that I have not, and if you will pardon the simile, you resemble one of those lovely hyacinths blooming in the conservatory yonder, while I, like the common grass found along the road, have grown up amid the plainest and homeliest scenes of backwoods country life. From childhood I have been obliged to participate in the struggles and hardships incident to that life, and to assist in maintaining an existence on the homestead. Please do not mis-understand my allusions to my home life and history, for there was an honest dignity about them that I would not exchange for princely lineage. The man who would offer any apology for such a home and such a history as ours, and for such modest, short, and simple annals as filled our little world in the backwoods of Canada, I should despise as I would a coward. I am very proud of it all, but I am not unmindful that the world recognises a great difference in our positions."

Helen laughed, and her laugh was always sweet music to Willieís ear. "Why, you great, silly boy," she exclaimed with enthusiasm, "what a long, serious speech you have made!" Then gravely, "Do you know, I had rather be the author of that speech, serious and long as it was, in which you refer to your home and to your manly struggles, than I would be ó why, than I would be ó President of the United States!"

Willie was swept off his feet by the generous enthusiasm of the girl. With the idealism of youth and love, he had placed Helen upon a pedestal so elevated that anything beyond an occasional pilgrimage for the purpose of indulging in worship and adoration before the shrine, appeared a sacrilegious presumption that might call down swift retribution.

Before he had time to reply to Helen she increased his astonishment by adding: "It was very nice of you to liken me to a hyacinth, and if you will allow me, I shall reward you by giving you Ďyonder hyacinth.í"

In an instant she passed into the conservatory, and returned, bearing the flower. She pinned it on the lapel of his coat, and as she did so, her face was so close to Willieís that he almost fancied he could catch the warm glow. He could feel her breath, and as she bent down lower, her wealth of hair flowed over her shoulders.

For an instant, just one instant, the boy was seized with a wild, exultant desire to take the beautiful girl in his arms and press her to his heart. He felt that he would have bartered his existence for the joy of just one such moment.

Love was awakening, as by magic touch, emotions the existence of which the young man had never before conceived. But the next instant that wild, passionate desire to embrace Helen and call her his was gone, and he inwardly returned thanks that he had been saved from doing so.

Such is youth. As an old moralist has dryly written, "Young men often view matters of this nature in a remarkable and exaggerated manner." When Willie came to himself, he was seated by Helenís side, with the hyacinth pinned on his coat. Helen sat calm and thoughtful, while Willie was consumed with excitement, joy, and ówell no doubt the reader knows more about it than I do.

"I suppose you will forget all about us when you go to the front," said Helen, quietly.

"Indeed, no!" answered Willie. "And if you will let me, I shall send you occasionally an account of our doings."

"Iím sure I should be delighted, and father, who is so much interested in the war, will be greatly pleased to hear from you."

"Perhaps I had better direct the correspondence to your father," said Willie, drawing a bow at venture.

"Oh, dear, no!" responded Helen, with a shade of disappointment in her tone. "I want you to write to me, and Iíll only read to papa what you say about the battles. You can tell me a lot of things about yourself and your observations. And donít forget to let me know if you find any finer hyacinths than the one I have pinned on your coat."

Willie said solemnly ó so solemnly that Helen smiled, "Miss Rolphe, I never want to."

"So we are to be friends, are we?" said Helen, emphasising the word "friends."

"Well, that is the way you honour me by putting it," answered Willie. "I would gladly be your slave."

"You are going to war," said Helen, as she rose, "to help set the slaves free, and who knows? you may prove your own liberator."

It was not until Willie had spent two or three years in camp, and had learned something of what active warfare meant, that the possible significance of the words of Helen "Who knows? you may prove your own liberator," came to him; and as he pondered over them, they kindled in his soul a hope that lightened his knapsack over many a weary march, and proved an inspiration to him in moments when the finest nerve and most dauntless courage were required to honour the flag under which he was fighting.

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