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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXXVII - Colin receives his Motherís Picture

BUT the pleasant days sped all too rapidly, and at last the hour came when the three young men must say good-bye and plunge into the great world which held so much of uncertainty for them. I shall not dwell upon the parting scenes or attempt to depict the regret that was experienced over the departure of the boys. They were all very popular with the young people in the settlement.

I may be partial (perhaps it is natural that I should be), but I think the keenest regret was felt in parting with Colin, especially among the boys and girls of the place. Colinís brightness, cheerfulness, and readiness to lend a hand made him the friend of nearly every one.

It was arranged that Wallace should drive the boys to Prescott. The trip would occupy three or four days, and I had managed to be included in the party. The St. Lawrence would be crossed at that place, and the remainder of the journey to the nearest railway point was not long. The night before the boys crossed the river, I took a walk with Colin. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and we strolled down the road by the river several miles.

"Colin, my boy," I said, as we were retracing our steps, "you are going to the war, and while I do not desire to alarm you in the slightest, it is only right that you should realise the risks you are taking."

"I think I am not unmindful of the danger," Colin answered; "but I believe I am following the path of duty, and I hope that I shall return in safety and honour."

"Please God it may be so!" I answered. "There has been something on my mind for a long time that I wanted to tell you, and I think it but right that you should know it before we separate, for God only knows how long."

"Please donít say that!" replied Colin, adding enthusiastically, "you and I have been such chums all these years, havenít we, Uncle Watty?" And he placed his arm affectionately across my shoulders. I felt a thrill of joy, for I loved the lad, on his own account as well as that of my sister.

"Do you remember that beautiful picture in the locket that I showed you some time ago?" I said.

"Remember it?" answered Colin. "Could any one forget a face like that?"

"Well, that is the picture of your mother," I said.

I had never had much conversation with Colin about himself. He knew that he was not Mrs. McNabbís son, and he knew that I was his uncle, but he never questioned me closely, and the story of his father and mother was too sad a one for me to discuss with him, more especially in view of the shadow that rested over the marriage of his parents. We both appeared, somehow, to avoid the subject. The first time it ever came up was when Colin was about eight years old. He came home from school one evening furious because Bill Pepperís boy had in an angry moment told him his father was a murderer and that his name was Wasby. He was so very young when he went to the widowís to live, that he scarcely remembered he was not born there, and it was not until he grew up that he began to wonder why he was not told more.

I had shown Colin the picture of his mother a week or two before, but owing to some interruption which occurred at the time, I did not explain to him who it was. Now, however, I determined to give the boy the locket, so that he might carry his motherís likeness with him to the war.

Colin gazed long and earnestly at the portrait, even though the bright moonlight afforded but an indifferent view of it. He was returning it to me, when I said: "No, Colin, it is yours. I brought it with me, intending to give you the locket, that you might carry it to the war with you."

Before we reached the inn, I told Colin everything except that the validity of his parentsí marriage had been assailed, and that otherwise he would have been the heir to great estates. I could see, as we walked along the old road by the great dark stream, across which the beams from the moon cast a bar of silver, that Colin was preoccupied. He was thinking about his mother, whose beautiful face had stirred him deeply. I left him to himself and to his thoughts, and the rest of the walk that night was in silence, broken only by the noise of our footfalls, and the rippling of the water as it struck upon the shore and receded.

"Why, where on earth have you two been?" said Wallace, who was standing in the doorway looking for us, as we approached the inn.

"Away down the road for miles," I answered.

"We feared you were lost, and we were just thinking of organising a search party," said Willie, coming out of the hostelry.

As it was late, and the boys were to start very early in the morning, we soon retired.

After a hurried breakfast, the ferry-boat was announced as being at the wharf, and in a few minutes the boys and their boxes were aboard. The goodbyes were quickly said, and the boat pushed off leaving Wallace and me standing on the bank waving our handkerchiefs, while the three stout-hearted lads answered us in the same way, until their figures grew small and they were finally lost to sight.

Two days later Wallace and I were back on the farm, where the old routine was taken up. At the earnest solicitation of Mrs. McNabb, I consented to become one of her household, making my home there when I was not absent from the settlement. The place seemed dreadfully lonely for a while.

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