I have a story to tell relative to what
happened to Sir George and Lady Beaumont, the excellent and beloved
proprietors of the Hermitage, in a neighbouring county. At the
period of which I speak, their family consisted of five children,
three sons and two daughters; and their eldest, a daughter called
Charlotte, was then nine years of age. She was a remarkably clever
child, and a great favourite of her parents ; but her mother used to
remark that her vivacity required checking, and, notwithstanding her
partiality for her, she never failed to exercise it when it became
necessary. It would have been well had others acted equally
It happened one day, as the family were going to sit down to dinner,
that Charlotte did not make her appearance. The maid was sent up to
her room, but she was not there. The dinner-bell was ordered to be
rung again, and a servant was at the same time dispatched to the
garden; and this having been done, Sir George and his lady proceeded
with the other youngsters to the dining-room, not doubting but
Charlotte would be home immediately. The soup, however, was finished
without any tidings of her, when, Lady Beaumont seeming a little
uneasy, Sir George assured her there was no cause for alarm, as
Charlotte would probably be found under her favourite gooseberrybush.
Lady Beaumont seemed to acquiesce in this, and appeared tolerably
composed, till the servant who had been sent to the garden came back
to say that she was not there. Sir George insisted that the man had
probably passed her without seeing her, the garden being so large ;
but the servant averred that he had been through the whole of it,
and had shouted repeatedly Miss Charlotte’s name.
"Oh!” exclaimed Sir George, "she has pretended not to hear you,
Robert, and, I daresay, will be back immediately, now that she has
succeeded in giving you a race round the garden; however," added he,
"you may go back again, and take Samuel and Thomas with you, and if
you do not find her hiding herself in the garden, you may take a
peep into the shrubbery, as she may slip in there, on seeing you
returning; and as you go along, you may call to her, and say that
dinner waits, and that Lady Beaumont is much displeased with her
being out at this time of the day. And now, my love,” continued Sir
George to his lady, "just let us proceed with dinner, and compose
Lady Beaumont forced a smile, and busied herself in attending to her
young ones ; but her own plate was neglected, and her eyes were
continually turned towards the window which looked upon the lawn.
"What can keep Robert, papa?" said Charles to his father.
"Indeed, my boy,” said Sir George," I do not know. Charlotte,”
continued he to Lady Beaumont, "do you see any thing?”
"They are all coming back," exclaimed Lady Beaumont, "and alone!”
and she rose hastily from her chair.
Robert and the other men now entered, and reported that they had
searched every spot in the garden and the shrubbery, but without
finding any trace of her; and the people who had been working there
all day had seen nothing of her. Lady Beaumont now became
excessively alarmed, and Sir George himself was far from easy,
though he appeared before his lady to treat the matter lightly.
"She’ll have gone up to the cottages to see her god-brother," said
Sir George; "or perhaps have wandered over to the mill.”
"And if she has fallen into the stream!” ejaculated Lady Beaumont.
"Now, dear Charlotte, do not needlessly alarm yourself; there’s no
fear but we shall soon find her.”
"God grant it!” said Lady Beaumont, "but my mind rnisgives me
Messengers were now dispatched to the cottages, and to the mill, and
in various other directions around the Hermitage, but all came back
without having obtained any tidings of the missing child. Sir
George, now very seriously alarmed, gave private directions for
having the fish-pond, and the stream which ran at the bottom of the
garden, carefully dragged. It was done, but nothing was found. The
whole household was now in motion, and as the story spread, the
tenants and neighbours came pouring from all quarters, with offers
to search the country round in every direction; so much was Sir
George esteemed and beloved by all classes. Their offers were
thankfully accepted, and after choosing their ground, and dividing
themselves into different parties, they set out from the Hermitage,
resolved, as they said, to fnd the little one, if she was above
ground. Sir George and his lady went out as the parties set off in
their different directions, and continued walking up and down the
avenue, that they might the sooner perceive the approach of those
bringing intelligence; but hour after hour elapsed, and no one came.
Sir George then proposed that Lady Beaumont should go home and see
the young ones put to bed. She did so, but soon returned again.
"I know," said she, answering Sir George’s look, "that you wished me
to remain at home and rest myself; but what rest can there be for
me, till we have some intelligence of”—— and her voice faltered.
"Well, well, then," said Sir George, pressing her arm in his, "let
us take a few more turns—surely we must hear something soon.”
The people now began to come dropping in from different quarters,
but all had the same melancholy answer - no one had seen or heard of
her. The hearts of the poor parents were sadly depressed, for
daylight was fast closing in, and almost all those who had set off
on the search had now returned, and amongst them their faithful
servant Robert, principally from anxiety to learn if any
intelligence had been obtained of his favourite. But when he found
that all had returned unsuccessful, he declared his determination to
continue the search during the night ; and he, and a good many
others who joined him, set off soon afterwards, being supplied with
torches and lanterns of various descriptions.
This determination gave new hopes to the inmates of the Hermitage,
and Lady Beaumont endeavoured to rally her spirits ; but when at
length, as daylight broke, Robert and his party returned alone, and
without intelligence, nature exhausted gave way, and she fell
senseless in her husband’s arms.
In the morning Robert tapped at Sir George’s door, and communicated
quietly to him his recollecting to have seen a rather
suspicious-looking woman near the Hermitage the previous day, and
that he had just heard from a neighbour, that a woman of that
description, with a child in her arms, had been seen passing to the
eastward. Orders were immediately given for a pursuit on horseback
;—Sir George giving directions to bring in every one whom they
suspected; saying, that he would compensate those who had reason to
complain of being used in this way. But, though many were brought to
the Hermitage, and large rewards were offered, yet week after week
passed over without bringing them the smallest intelligence of their
lost little one.
Some months had elapsed since their child had disappeared, and the
minds of the parents had become comparatively composed, when their
attention was one evening attracted by the appearance of an unusual
number of people in the grounds below the terrace, and whose motions
it seemed difficult to understand.
"What can have brought so many people there?” asked Lady Beaumont; “
and what are they doing?"
"Indeed, my love, I do not know," said Sir George, "but there’s
Robert, passing down the walk, and he will tell us ;"and he called
to Robert, who, however, seemed rather not to wish to hear; but Sir
George called again, and so loudly, that Robert was obliged to stop.
"Robert,” said Sir George, "what do these people seek in the low
"They are looking for —— of Widow Watt’s, your honour,” said Robert.
"Did you hear what it was, my dear?" said Sir George to his lady.
"No,"said Lady Beaumont; "but probably her pet lamb, or more likely
her cow, has strayed.”
"Is it her cow that’s amissing, Robert?” called Sir George.
"No, your honour,” said Robert;
"Her lamb then, or some other beast?" asked Sir George.
"Naething o’ the kind, your honour,” answered Robert.
"What then?" demanded Sir George, in a tone that showed he would be
"Why, your honour, they say that wee Leezie Watt’s no come hame, and
the folk are gaun to seek for her; and nae doubt they’ll soon find
her,” added Robert, stepping hastily away to join them.
Sir George had felt Lady Beaumont’s convulsive grasp of his arm, and
gently led her to a seat, where after a while she became more
composed, and was able to walk to the Hermitage.
"And now,” said she, on reaching the door, "think no more of me, but
give all your thoughts to the most likely means of restoring the
poor child to its widowed parent.”
"Spoken like yourself," said Sir George, pressing her hand ; and
immediately flew to give directions for making the most thorough and
effectual search. But this search,-alas! proved equally unavailing
as the former one, and no trace whatever could be found of the
The story, joined to the disappearance of Sir George’s daughter,
made a great noise, and created considerable alarm in that part of
the country; and this alarm was increased fourfold, when, in three
weeks afterwards, another child was lost. The whole population now
turned out, and people were stationed to watch in different places
by night and by day. But no discovery was made; and, to add to their
horror, child after child disappeared, till the number of the lost
little ones amounted to seven. Parents no longer durst trust their
children for a moment out of their sight. They went with them to
school, and also went to bring them back again ; and these
precautions had the best effect, many weeks having elapsed without
anything unpleasant happening. The neighbours now began to
congratulate each other on the probability, or rather certainty,
that those who had inflicted so much misery in that quarter of the
country had gone somewhere else, and that they would now be able to
live in some kind of peace and comfort. But this peaceful state was
not destined to continue.
One of Sir George’s best tenants, David Williams, had been busily
engaged in ploughing the whole day, and was thinking of unyoking and
going home, when his wife looked over the dyke, and asked him how he
was coming on."But whaur," continued she, "are the bairns? are they
at the t’ither end o’ the field?"
"The bairns! ” said David, "I haena seen them; but is’t time for
their being back frae the school?”
"Time!” exclaimed his wife; "muckle mair than time, they should hae
been hame an hour syne; and that brought me out to see gif they were
wi’ you, as you said ye wad may be lowse and gang to meet them!"
"’Od, I was unco keen,” said David, "to finish this bit lea, and had
nae notion it was sae far in the day."
"Preserve us!” exclaimed Matty, "gif anything has happened to them!"
"Nonsense,” cried David, "when there’s three o’ them thegither; but,
here," says he, "tak ye the beasts hame, and I’se be off, and will
soon be back wi’ them; sae dinna vex yoursel.”
"I hope it may be sae,” said Matty, "but my heart misgies me sair—however,
dinna wait to speak about it.”
David Williams was not long of reaching the school, where he learned
from the mistress, that his children had remained a good while after
the rest, expecting him to come for them; but that they had at
length set out to meet; him, as she understood, and that they had
been gone above an hour, and she thought they would have been home
long ago."But, perhaps, ” continued she,"they may have called in at
their aunt’s, for I heard them speaking of her to-day.”
David took a hasty leave, and posted away to his sister’s, but the
children had not been there, nor had any one seen them. His
brother-in-law, John Maxwell, seeing his distress, proposed taking
one road, while David took the other, towards home, and to meet at
the corner of the planting near his house. They did so, and arrived
nearly at the same time, and each without having heard or seen
anything of the children. David Williams was now in a perfect agony,
and the perspiration ran like water from his forehead.
"Maybe they’re hame already," said his brother-in-law; "I daurna
gang up mysel to speir, bit we’ll send yon herd laddie.”
John went, and gave the boy his directions to ask, first, if David
Williams was at hame, and then to ask, cannie-like, if the weans
were in. He then sat down beside David, keeping his eye on the
cottage, when he sees Matty come fleeing out like one distracted.
"Down, David! down wi’ your head, man,” cried John, "that she mayna
see us.” But Matty had got a glimpse of them, and came right down on
them as fast as she could run. .
"Whaur’s my bairns, David?” cried she; "whaur’s our bonnie bairns? I
kent weel, whenever the callant askit if they were come hame, what
was the meaning o’t. They’re lost, they’re lost!” continued the poor
woman, wringing her hands,"and what’ll become o’ me?"
"Now Matty, Matty, my ain wife," said David, "dinna ye gang on at
that gate, and hurt yoursel; naebody
but John and me has been looking for them, and we’ve come straught
hame, and there’ s a heap o’ ither ways, ye ken, that they may hae
"Ay, ower mony--ower mony ways, I’m doubtin’,” said Matty moumfully,
shaking her head; "but dinna let us put aff time this gate. Rin ye
baith an' alarm the neebours, and I’ll awa to the Hermitage, where
we’re sure to get help ; and God grant it mayna end wi’ mine as it
did wi’ ithers!”