ON the death of our parents, my sister Eleanor and
myself, then children, had been left to the guardianship of an uncle, a
gentleman farmer in Warwickshire, England. Two small annuities comprised
our whole fortune, and when, some years later, Edwin, eldest son of Lord
Beaumont, was observed to pay marked attention to Eleanor, their
acquaintance was frowned upon by both the earl and our guardian. When
Edwin presented himself to Uncle Edward and asked for her hand, he was
told that nothing of the sort would be thought of —
at least for several years.
Two weeks later they fled together
and went to the continent, Edwin hoping that in a few months his father
would become reconciled to their union. The reconciliation was never
effected. Four months after the
marriage Edwin died of a fever caught in the city of Naples.
My sister returned to her guardian’s roof, and there
her son Colin was born. A year later she went to
reside at the country-seat of Lord Beaumont, who had
represented that Colin should be brought up as became the heir to the
title and estates. But after another two years, Lord Beaumont’s brother,
the next in line of succession, came forward with a startling statement.
The marriage of Edwin and Eleanor had, he alleged, been celebrated by a
man who was not in reality a clergyman, but an impostor, and the marriage
was therefore invalid. The witnesses and the other evidence he produced
seemed conclusive. Smitten to the heart, and distracted with grief for her
son, Eleanor returned to our guardian’s roof.
I was in London at the time. Eleanor
was especially dear to me, and my heart bled for her when I received word
of what had happened. Just one week later I received this message, "Come
to me at once. —
I did so. Colin had been abducted,
and my poor Eleanor was in a pitiful state of prostration. But inquiries
had already been set on foot and advertisements published We ascertained
that a child answering to Colin’s description had been in the custody of a
man in Liverpool on board the emigrant ship Oceanica,
bound for the port of Montreal
Further than that we could learn nothing. I brought the
news to my sister, and she entreated me to go at once to Montreal and
restore her boy to
her. I prepared to depart the next day. Before we
parted, she made me promise, in the most solemn and affecting manner, to
care for her child.
The pledge was needless, for I believe I would
cheerfully have died to relieve her terrible distress. I remember still,
after the lapse of many years, the poignant grief, apprehension, and hope
upon the sweet face that gazed into mine. But I gave my promise and I
believe I have kept it.
Having arrived in Montreal, a week of enquiry resulted
in learning that Colin had been seen with an English immigrant family
named Wasby, who had left for "the Scotch Settlement." Having first
written to my sister, I followed the Wasbys, going to Brockville Landing
by boat, and the remainder of the way in an ox-cart. I found that a man
named Wasby with a wife and family had indeed arrived, and that one of the
children answered to the name of Colin.