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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XLVII - Breaking the News to Mother

THREE days before the time set for the departure of Willie for New York, a messenger arrived at the home of Mrs. McNabb, having come with the greatest despatch straight from that city. He bore the following letter from Mr. Rolphe, addressed to Willie.

NEW YORK, June 20, 1865.

My DEAR WILLIE: A great calamity has happened, and my heart almost fails in the effort to break the news to you. Prepare your mind for a great shock. I have scarcely the courage to tell you that your noble brother Jamie is no more. His young life has been rudely cut off in the midst of its great promise and usefulness. I am coming myself with the remains, and will be but a short time behind the messenger. Have all arrangements made for the burial. I was with the poor boy at the end, and he expressed a wish to be buried at the foot of the orchard, near his favourite apple-tree. He said the sound of the little burn, as it rippled over the stones, would help him to rest peacefully. He added that he had a strange fancy he would be lonesome if laid away in the cemetery. He would like to be on the old homestead near where the cows, the sheep, and the horses would graze. Poor lad, he was so cheerful, and so willing to die! His only regret seemed to be the shock that his death would cause his mother. I hope God will give you all grace to bear this sorrow. You will know how best to break the news to his mother.

Trusting God will sustain you all in this sore trial, I remain,

Your faithful but sorrowful friend,


Willie was down at the barn when the messenger delivered the letter, and for a time after he read its contents he could hardly realise what had happened, so sudden and startling was the news. He hastily sought Wallace and Colin, and imparted the sad intelligence to them.

While the boys, with blanched faces and bated breath, were discussing the best plan for breaking the awful news to their mother, she came upon them unawares, having been in the barn on some errand. Her instinct told her, as she looked from one face to another, that something terrible had happened.

"What is it, my boys?" she asked. "Some calamity has befallen us."

"Yes," they answered, but they remained silent. "You, Wallace, tell me what it is," said the mother, appealing to her first-born. I had always observed, during my intercourse with the family, that Mrs. McNabb, in all critical instances, appealed to Wallace. Somehow she leaned upon him as her chief prop and family bulwark, and, to his credit be it said, he never failed her.

Wallace remained silent for a moment or two, and then he said: "Itís Jamie, mother. Itís about poor Jamie. Heís "ó but he could get no farther; his voice choked, and he turned his face away from her.

"What has happened to Jamie?" asked the now faltering mother. "Did that stranger that drove down the lane a few minutes ago bring evil tidings of my boy?"

"Yes, mother," answered Colin, who was the coolest of the three.

"And what news did he bring?" asked the mother.

"Very bad news, mother," answered Colin, slowly, approaching Mrs. McNabb, and taking her hands kindly in his own.

"Not the worst!" she gasped.

Colin bowed his head, and with a voice choking with emotion, said, "No; but, mother dear, Jamie is dead."

The blow was too great for the widowís now weakened heart. She tottered against a bench, trying to sit down, and then relapsed into unconsciousness. The boys bore her tenderly to the orchard close by, and there laid her on the grass, while they tried to revive her.

But it seemed a long time to her anxious sons before there was any sign of returning consciousness. Colin told me afterwards that he thought her dead, so pale and placid she looked, as her form lay prone and silent upon the sod. Indeed so peaceful and oblivious to all trouble did she seem, that the lad could scarcely resist a feeling of regret that she must awaken to the heartrending realisation of her sorrow.

She opened her eyes wonderingly at last, and gazed on her boys bending over her. She lay very still and quiet on the green grass, but when she looked at her sons a second time, her eyes wore the light of intelligence. She appeared too weak in body to move, but she breathed naturally, and the boys knew she was conscious and was silently wrestling with her burden. At length the heartbreaking silence was broken.

"Godís will be done !" she murmured. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord! "

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