Scottish Orphans By Mrs. Blackford
(now Lady Stoddart) (1857) - Chapter 2
About the year 1751,
Colonel and Mrs. Beaumont resided on a small estate they had recently
purchased, at the foot of the Pentland Hills, twelve miles to the south
of Edinburgh. One evening, towards the end of August, they had come out
together to enjoy a walk, and overlook some of the improvements that
were going on near their house. They had walked nearly to the top of the
glen, where the workmen were employed, when their attention was suddenly
called towards the opposite direction to that which they were, by
repeated shouts of laughter.
Hark! said Mrs. Beaumont, what can that be? I declare this place is
so wild and solitary, that if you were not with me, I should feel afraia
to enter that part of the glen
There can be no great reason for fear, answered her husband, "in this
instance. I suppose it to be only the village children amusing
themselves after leaving school. The voices sound as if they were in a
high game of romps. HI were not apprehensive of alarming them, I should
like to take a peep, and see what is delighting them so much. We must
try, my dear, to get acquainted with our tenants, and perhaps the best
way to accomplish this end, will be by making friends with their
children. Come, let us step softly down this little winding path; we may
tnen see them, through the trees, without disturbing them.
Mrs. Beaumont assenting to the proposal, they turned to the right hand;
and, after walking about twenty yards down a sloping path, leading
towards the river that divided the glen, and which was so closely hemmed
in with brushwood and hazel trees, as scarcely to permit them to pass,
they arrived at a small spot of ground, entirely freed from the wood,
and covered with the richest verdure.
Ah! whispered the Colonel, this is Habbies Howe, that you have heard
MFarlane talk so much about, and which is so celebrated, from the great
poet of this country, Allan Ramsay, having made it the scene of his
Gentle Shepherd. I am glad these little fairy voices have led me to see
it, before my friend returns; for though I have looked for it once or
twice, on my way up the glen, I have, some how or other, always missed
What a beautiful spot! exclaimed Mrs. Beaumont; but look, Charles,
what are these lovely children watching so close to the fall? It seems
to me to bei quite dangerous to allow such little creatures to be so
near the water, alone. At that moment something appeared to be thrown
down upon the grass, from a tree that grew at the head of the fall, and
whose branches bent so much over it, as almost to dip into the foaming
torrent. A loud shout from the children was instantly set up, and a
scramble upon the grass followed, to secure the prize.
It is nuts, said the Colonel, they are gathering; but who can it be,
that is bold enough to venture into so perilous a situation to get at
them? We must be cautious in discovering ourselves; yet I cannot leave
these children, till I see them in safety, and know that their companion
in the tree is old enough to be trusted.
With this view, the Colonel and Mrs. Beau* mont drew back a little way
behind a bush, which screened them from observation, and continued to
watch the little creatures for a few minutes, while they deliberated on
what would be the safest method of addressing them. The group consisted
of four children; two little girls, about six years old, and two boys,
who appeared as soon as the nuts were on the grass, one of the girls
called out, More, brother, if you please, I have had very few yet;
Annie has twice as many as I have. No, indeed, Jessie, answered a
voice from the tree, I cannot throw any more now, for I am quite tired
with climbing; but when I come down, I will divide the whole equally
between you, if you are all good, and keep away from the edge of the
water. I see one beautiful bunch that I would fain have, before I come
to you; but I must rest a little before I try to get at it, as it is
almost at the top of the tree.
Now is our time, then, said the Colonel; "if he is resting, there is
less danger of his falling, from the surprise of seeing us, and I must
prevent him from climbing any more, if possible, in so dangerous a
situation. Stop, said Mrs. Beaumont, let me go first. I think I
shall manage the introduction better than you; therefore, do you stay
here till I call you. She stepped forward just as the children had sat
down on the grass to place their nuts in a heap together, till their
brother came to divide them, Jessie, get up directly, cried a voice
from the tree; there is a ladv coming to look at the fall, I suppose:
make a curtsy to her, and behave properly.
The little fair creature raised her head, and putting her luxuriant
curls of bright auburn hair back with her hand, looked timidly up in
Mrs. Beaumonts face, who, by this time, was close beside her. Deeply
blushing, at finding the stranger so near her, she sprung lightly upon
her feet, and kissing her hand curtsied to the ground.
Whose nice little girl are you, my dear? asked Mrs. Beaumont.
William Mathiesons, maam, my daddie, answered the child; he lives
at the Carlins Loup, just a little bit on the other side of the water.
And who are your companions, my dear? again asked Mrs. Beaumont,
fixing her eyes on the other girl, who was as remarkably dark in her
complexion, as her new acquaintance was fair.
Just my sister Annie, maam, and my brothers. Mother does not like us
to play with any one but ourselves.
And is that your brother up in the tree, also?
Yes, maam, it is our brother Arthur; he has only gone up to please us,
maam, and will take great care not to break the tree. But you will not
tell the new laird of him, I hope; for, perhaps, he may not be as good
as Mr. MFarlane was, who gave us leave to gather as many nuts as we
Hush, Jessie, whispered one of the boys, whose features and complexion
were almost as fair and handsome as her own. You must not trouble the
lady about that. I dare sav the new laird will not be very angry with us
for gathering the nuts, when he Knows we had Mr. MFarlanes leave; and
if he does not like to allow us to continue to take them, he has only to
tell us so, and we shall never come here again: so, if she pleases to
tell him she saw us, there will be no harm done. We are not taking them
in secret* like thieves; father teaches us better than that, and he
would be as angry with us as the laird could be, if we were to do
anything of the kind.
Jessie blushed again, deeply, at her brothers reproof; and Mrs.
Beaumont feeling anxious to get the boy safely out of the tree, walked
forward towards the fall, to speak to him. She did not see him, till she
got close to the brink of the river, the thick branches of the trees and
brushwood completely covering him from observation. But when she did
discover where he was, she could scarcely refrain from screaming with
alarm, at his dangerous situation. The branch he was sitting on, hung
directly over the fall, which was about fourteen or fifteen feet high,
and from his curiosity to observe the stranger, he had been tempted to
come forward, almost to the middle of it. He was a boy about eleven or
twelve years old. His countenance appeared to Mrs. Beaumont, when she
first caught a sight of it, as the handsomest she had ever seen; and as
he bowed his head, on perceiving he was observed, she felt, as she
afterwards often told her husband, as if the smile that passed over his
face at the moment, had recalled to her recollection the features of an
old friend, and had attached her to himself for life.
For a few moments, Mrs. Beaumont was so astonished and confused, with
the sort of feeling that Arthurs manner and appearance created in her,
as to be wholly unable to speak to him. At last she addressed him,
entreating that he would not attempt to move, till she got a gentleman
who was waiting for her to assist him from the tree.
I would willingly obey you, madam, answered the boy, if I did not
think that I can descend from where I am, much safer alone than with
the assistance of any one. I am accustomed to climb every day; often in
much more dangerous places than this is; and, I believe, there are very
few men in the country can venture further than I continually do. You
shall see me beside you in safety, in a second, if you wish it. I can
come another day for the nuts at the top, if Jessie will give me leave;
but I must ask her first, as I promised her that bunch, and I never am
worse than my word
Little Jessie was, by this time, dose to Mrs. Beaumont, and eagerly
called to her brother to come down, since the lady wished it; and before
Mrs. Beaumont was aware of his intention, Arthur had swung himself from
the bough on which he sat, and passed so rapidly among the branches as
to be entirely out of sight in a second, and almost immediately appeared
again, running towards her on the same side of the water with herself.
You see, exclaimed he, there was no danger, madam, at least none to
me, who am so accustomed to climb; but it would be very different with
my brothers. I never allow them to climb in such places as this; and
they are very good boys, and always mind what I tell them.
And you, dear Arthur, are very kind; for you never mind any trouble, if
you can please us, and, therefore, we should be very naughty boys if we
did not do what you wish us.
Colonel Beaumont, the moment he saw Arthur join the rest, stepped from
his concealment; which Arthur perceiving, he went directly up to him,
It is the new laird, I believe. I have teen gathering a few nuts for my
brothers and sisters. I hope you are not displeased with me, sir, for
doing so: the gentleman who formerly lived here, gave all the children
of the village permission to gather them; but if you, sir, dont choose
to allow us the same liberty, I will promise never to touch one again.
My dear, answered the Colonel, smiling, I have no objection at all to
your gathering the nuts; but I really am very much afraid to allow you
to climb in such a dangerous place to get at them. What would become of
you, if, by any chance, the bough were to break when you were on it? or,
if you should chance to slip your feet, instant death must be the
consequence. I can scarcely tell you, my little fellow, how miserable it
made me, for the last quarter since I have known your danger.
Indeed! exclaimed Arthur, turning suddenly round to the Colonel;
then, sir, I will never, as long as I live, go upon that tree again.
You are a very good boy, answered the Colonel, and since you have so
willingly agreed to please me, I must try if I cannot, in return, do
something to please you. I should like very much to walk home with you
to your fathers, in order to tell him how much his son remembers and
practises his instructions. I wish to become acquainted with him, for I
am sure he must be both a good and a sensible man, to have so well
trained his children.
He is, indeed, sir, exclaimed Arthur, the best of men.
The Colonel, surprised with the eagerness of the boy, turned round,
which Arthur perceiving, hastily added, I love my father so dearly,
that I could not help saying so, and my mother, too. I do not think
there is so happy a family in the village, as we are.
I am glad to hear you speak thus, my dear, for nothing can afford me
greater pleasure, than to find the tenants and workmen upon my estate
happy and virtuous. But you must tell me what is your fathers
employment; perhaps I may be able to be of service to him, now that I am
come to live amongst you. He must find it difficult, I think, to support
so large a family, and keep you all so nice and tidy as you are.
I dont know as to that, sir, answered Arthur; my father never
complains, and always tells us, if we are but good children he cares but
little for anything else. My mother, to be sure, often wishes she were
rich enough to send me to the school at Linton, for my father will not
allow me to go to the village school at Carlins Loup, as he says he can
teach me better himself, in the evenings, . than I could be taught by
old Mary; but I always tell her, that when I am able to work and get a
little money, I shall then pay for my own schooling, without burthening
my father any more than I can help. Do you think, sir, I shall be able
to learn Latin, after I am fifteen? for that is the only thing I am
afraid of, as my mother says she is afraid I shall be too old.
Yes, my dear, I think, if you wish very much to learn Latin, you may
easily acquire it, even if you are twenty before you begin; but can you
read and write English? for that, I think, is of much more consequence,
for a boy like you, than learning Latin.
O yes, sir, answered Arthur, smiling,
I can both read and write, my father says, as well as most boys of my
age, and I know a little of arithmetic and geography; but I am afraid I
have forgotten the last in some degree, as my father has no time, in the
summer, to teach me; and besides, he is not rich enough to buy a book;
for me, that he says I ought to have; so I doubt I shall not be able to
learn much more, till I can work for it myself.
Colonel Beaumont walked on, chatting in this manner with the boy, and
wondering in his own mind, how a common ploughman could have given his
son such a desire for instruction, accompanied with so much good sense.
He addressed the other children, now and then, who answered his
questions readily enough, though they were evidently more abashed at the
notice taken of them than their elder brother.
Mrs. Beaumont, meantime, was endeavouring to make friends with the
little girls; she held Jessie by the hand, as she walked along, while
Annie, as if fearful of losing her sister, kept a firm hold of her on
the other side. At first they were both very shy, and only answered her
questions by monosyllables; but, gradually becoming more familiar, they
chatted and talked of all their little pleasures and enjoyments; and, by
the time they came in sight of the dozen cottages that formed the
village of Carlins Loup, she had been promised, by Jessie, a present of
one of her white hens eggs, and a moss rose from Annies rose tree.
The Carlins Loup is built under two high hills which stand directly
opposite to each other, overhanging the turnpike road; and in former
ages, when the stories of witches and warlocks were believed, this place
was supposed to be a favourite resort of the witches of the country, who
began all their incantations by leaping across the road, from hill to
hill, seven times, before they proceeded to business. From this foolish
tradition it acquired its name Carlin, meaning in Scotland, an old
woman, and Loup, to leap. The immediate predecessor of Colonel Beaumont
being anxious to improve the houses and situations of his poor tenants,
fixed on this spot, from the shelter the hills afforded it, as a
convenient place for erecting a small village, in which all who had
worked on the estate for three years, and had conducted themselves well
during that time, were entitled to a house and a small piece of ground
for raising vegetables.
Our fathers house is at the further end of the village, said Arthur,
as they drew near; shall I run before, and tell him to meet you, sir?
perhaps the lady will not like to go into our house, for I have heard my
mother say that the peat smoke is very disagreeable to those who are not
used to it. Oh, no, cried Mrs. Beaumont, you must not run away from
us; your sisters have promised to shew me their chickens, and their
garden; and, besides, I want to be introduced to your mother.
Perhaps, said her husband, it may be as well to let Arthur run before
us, and tell his parents we are coming to visit them; it is a piece of
civility, I think, we ought to shew them; and which they have a right to
expect from us.
I will run forward, said one of the younger boys; Arthur may stay and
walk with the laird, for he can speak better to him than I can. Run
away, then, Jamie, answered Arthur, for my mother will wonder what has
kept us so late; and, perhaps my father may have begun to eat his
Away ran Jamie, like an arrow out of a bow; and by the time the party
reached the cottage, both the father and the mother were come out of the
door to receive them. They were dressed exactly like other labouring
people of the country, though perfectly neat and clean.
Your name, my friend, said the Colonel, addressing the cottager, "is
William Mathieson, your son tells me. Accident has introduced us to your
children, and they have at our desire, brought us here to see you. I
have been much gratified in finding a family living on my estate, so
extremely well brought up, and I wish to become acquainted with , the
parents of children, who are taught so well how to conduct themselves.
If we are not intruding at an improper time, we wish to have some
conversation with you; and I think my wife will be refreshed by a little
rest, for we have had a long walk.
If, sir, answered William, you will honour my wife so far as to rest
under our humble roof, you are heartily welcome. I hope my children have
not been trespassing in any way, in the glen, to attract your attention.
Mr. MFarlane was always so indulgent to the children of the village,
that, perhaps, they may have ventured nearer to the house than you, or
your lady, approve of; but if it is so, when I know your pleasure, I
shall take care that they never do so again.
O no, William, said Mrs. Beaumont, the children have committed no
offence; on the contrary, they have amused me extremely; and, if you
will give us leave, your daughters and I are going to be very good
friends in future; and you must let them come and visit me, when you and
your wife can spare them.
William bowed, and made way for Mrs. Beaumont to enter the little hut,
for it was not much better, as, in those days, the cottages in Scotland
were very poor little places even the best of them. Williams appeared
better than was usually met with, by being kept extremely clean and
neat; but in every other respect it was exactly like the other houses in
the village. The good woman of the house offered her visitor a large
armchair. by the side of the fire; and she was no sooner seated, than
the two little girls placed themselves by her side, eager to show their
new friend their kitten and their chickens, of whom they had talked so
much during their walk.
Dont be so troublesome, my dears, said their mother. I hope you will
excuse their ignorance, maam; poor things, it is meant in kindness on
their part, although it must seem foolish to a lady like you. Not in
the least, Jane, answered Mrs. Beaumont, who had learned the mothers
name. On the contrary, I am quite delighted to find them so familiar
with me; and you must not hinder us from getting better acquainted with
When the Colonel came in, he remarked the air of neatness in the house,
and glancing towards the round table that stood in the middle of the
little room, asked William what he had been reading? "It is the Bible,
sir, answered he; we were just preparing for family worship, and
forgot to put away the books before you came in. "Come here, Arthur,
said the Colonel, and let me hear how well you can read. He tells me,
William, that you have taught him entirely youxsel£
"Yes, sir, answered William; "I cannot afford to do so much as I wish
for him, but I hope I do not neglect instructing him in whatever I am
able to teach myself; he is a good boy, and takes to his book as well as
I could desire.
Arthur took up the Bible, and read a chapter in a clear, distinct voice.
When he had finished, the Colonel expressed his surprise at his
acquirements, ana told his father he thought he did him great credit as
My brothers read nearly as well as I do, said Arthur, "and even Jessie
and Annie are beginning to read the Bible. My father takes so much pains
with us all, that we must be good scholars, or it would be a great
shame. William smiled, and answered, You see, sir, Arthur is
determined that I shall have my full portion of the merit of his
scholarship; but the real secret is, that we all do our best, and when
that is the case, success is pretty certain; I really believe he has as
much pleasure in learning, as I have in teaching; and our only regret
is, that we cannot devote more of our time to pursuits that give us so
They continued to converse together for some time: every minute the
Colonel remained, increased his surprise and admiration of both father
and son, and determined him, if the father was willing to part with the
boy, to propose taking him into his own family, and breeding him up as a
servant, to wait on himself. With this view, he called to him, and asked
him if he had any objections to come and live with him at Glenlyn.
In what situation, sir? asked Artnur, colouring deeply, as he put the
As a servant boy, my dear, to wait upon me and your mistress. In the
evenings, if you continue to conduct yourself properly, I will hear you
read myself; and, perhaps, in the summer months, I may put you to
school, if you still continue to wish to learn Latin, as you told me you
did, during our walk.
I am extremely obliged to you, sir, for the offer you have made me, but
I cannot leave home yet. My father has very little time to bestow upon
my brothers; and I now am able to teach them a great deal. I hope you
will not be offended with me for refusing to accept your kindness, which
I feel very grateful for, though I must decline it.
"I shall riot take your answer to-night, Arthur; think on what I have
said, and come to Glenlyn to-morrow evening; and then, if you still
think it best for you to remain at home, and your father wishes it, I
shall not press you farther on the subject. The Colonel, as he said
this, rose to take leave; and Mrs. Beaumont having made William and Jane
promise to send Jessie and Annie along with their brother the next
evening, to visit her, they quitted the cottage, and returned home
delighted with the accident that had introduced them to so interesting a
As soon as they had left the cottage William seated himself at the
table, and, opening the sacred volume, began the usual evening service,
which was no sooner concluded, than his wife placed a large dish of hot
potatoes on the table, and desired the children to make haste and eat
their supper, as it was late, and she was obliged to be up early the
next morning, to carry her eggs and butter to the market at Linton. All
obeyed her but Arthur, who sat leaning his head upon the window-seat,
without appearing to hear her. Wont you come to your supper, my dear?
said Jane, after the rest were seated; the potatoes will be cold if you
do not eat them soon.
Leave him alone, Jane, said William; "I must talk to him a little
after the voung ones are in bed. Put a few potatoes by the fire to keep
warm; perhaps he may like them better by and by.
Jane sighed, and did as her husband advised her. During the. time the
supper lasted, both listened eagerly to Allen and Jamies account of
their first meeting with the laird and his lady; as soon as the meal was
finished, the children were undressed and put into bed in a small
apartment which ' 1 for the sleeping room of When they were gone, Arthur
rose from his seat, and, coming up to his father, burst into tears. I
am afraid, dear father, that I am a very proud, naughty boy, in having
refused the offer that the laird has so kindly made me; but I cannot
easily bring my mind to become a servant. My brother and dear Jessie are
much happier than I am; for they have no recollections to disturb their
minds; but, though I love you as dearly as they do, vet I know I am hot
your son, and I cannot oelieve that, if my own father and mother had
lived, they would have wished me to be a servant to any lady.
"You surprise me greatly, Arthur, said William; "I had no idea you had
any recollection of having any other father and mother than Jane and I.
Tell me, my dear boy, all you can remember about yourself, that I may
warn you against ever allowing any other person being let into the
"I do not recollect a great deal, answered Arthur, till I was living
in some sort of a prison; I think it must have been with my father and
mother. I am quite sure it was neither you nor Jane I was with; but
that, if I am not greatly deceived, my parents were gentlefolks, like
the laird and that lady that has just been here. I remember my mother
wore a gold watch; for she used to let me put it to my ear to hear it
tick. She was always crying, and my father used to talk a great deal to
me about being a good boy, and being a comfort to her when he was dead.
The last thing I recollect of them, was, that one morning my father put
me into a basket, after he had made me promise not to cry, nor be
frightened, as he said that he would take great care that I should not
fall. He told me, then, that I was going to you, who would take care of
me, till either he or my mother came to Edinburgh for me. I well
remember how much I was afraid, when I was in the basket; and afterwards
recollect standing and watching its coming down with poor little Jessie
in it. Allen was beside me, but I dont recollect seeing him come down.
Allen and I were then put into a pair of panniers across a jackass; and,
from that time, I have never seen nor heard a word of my father and
mother. Once, when I asked yon when they would come for us, as they had
promised, you told me they were dead; and that you and your wife were
now our parents. I did not, for some years, think much about them, but
lately I have felt very curious to know what really did happen to our
dear father and mother; and when I have been thinking on what I shall
like to be when I am old enough to work, my fathers face always comes
to my recollection, and I wish I could be what he was, which, I fancy,
was a soldier.
William listened to Arthurs story with real concern. He had flattered
himself that the child had entirely forgotten all that had happened in
his infancy, from his never having, for several years, alluded to it in
the slightest degree. He had no intention of allowing him to accept
Colonel Beaumonts offer, though he scarcely knew how he could refuse,
what appeared to those who were not in the secret, so greatly for the
boys advantage; yet, at the time it was made, he hesitated what answer
to give. Arthur, however, saved him at once from the necessity of
interfering; and, indeed, he had intended to speak to him in private
that very evening, ana to tell him what were his own wishes for his
When William returned to Edinburgh, after seeing his poor masters
execution, he found the children and his wife placed in a small house in
the Canongate, which their mothers aunt, Mrs. Campbell, had taken for
them. She was a very good, kind-hearted old woman; and, had she lived,
would have superintended the health and education of her nieces
unfortunate orphans, to the utmost of her power; but she was old and
feeble, and has very little money to bestow on any one, possessing no
more than what was absolutely necessary for her own support. During the
two years she lived she nearly divided her small pittance with them;
and, on finding her end drawing near, she sent for William, and, after
receiving from him a solemn promise never to forsake them, put into his
bands three hundred pounds, which she advised him to place out at
interest, to defray, in some measure, the expense of their living with
him, till the boys were old enough to go into some way of earning their
own living. It would then be some provision for the girl, who, of
course, was more helpless than the boys, and required the principal more
than they did. Mrs. Campbell died; and William, after placing the legacy
in safe hands, resolved to allow the interest to run up, while the boys
were young, in order that, if they had nothing else to depend on, he
might be able to educate them for the church, which he conceived was the
easiest way of placing them in the situation of gentlemen; for he could
not bear the idea of bringing up his masters children in the same rank
Colonel Monteith, their uncle, had, on the death of their poor father,
succeeded completely in securing for himself the property, which had
been forfeited to the Crown. Fearful, however, that, at some future
time, the orphans might appear and give him trouble, or, at least, bring
a certain degree of odium upon his character, if he did not pro* vide
for them in some way, considering how nearly they were related to him,
he never relaxed in his anxious search for them; and only the last time
William had been in Edinburgh, he heard that he had offered a
considerable reward to any of the tenants who should discover what had
become of them. It therefore became of the greatest importance to keep
them yet, for a few years, entirely in concealment Williams vexation
was extreme at finding Arthurs memory so tenacious, and he sat for some
minutes considering how he should answer him, so as neither to intrust
him with the secret of his birth, nor yet to allow him to believe he
wished to deceive him: at last he said:
Arthur, my dear, I had hoped, as I told you before, that you had
entirely forgotten what certainly did pass in your childhood I should
have been much happier, had been so; as you are too young yet to be
intrusted with a secret, which, if it was discovered, might prove of
very serious consequence to us all. You say you remember that your
father desired you, when he parted from you, to obey me till he saw you
again. Alas I my dear lx>y, he too well knew, at that moment, that, in
all human probability, he was never likely to see you again in this
world; and he meant to impress upon your young mind the necessity of
your considering me in the light of a father for the future. I was near
him at the hour of his death, and I then received a solemn charge to
consider you, from that time, as my children, and to rear you up in the
belief that you were so. It was an awful moment, and the solemn vow I
then made to my dying master shall never be broken while there is a
necessity for performing it. I have bestowed much pains in forming your
mind to virtue, and in instructing you, to the best of my poor ability,
in religious knowledge. Will it be asking too much from you in return,
if I require from you a promise to restrain your curiosity on this
subject for a few years? Best assured, my dear child, that it is for
your own and your brother and sisters benefit that I require this
promise; and that the moment I think I can, with safety, explain to you
the history and misfortunes of your dear parents, I will lose not a
moment in communicating to you all that concerns them. It has never been
my intention to allow you to go into any menial employment. I have, by
economy, and by my wifes assistance in managing our limited means been
enabled to put by a small sum, with the view of sending you to Linton
school, next spring; there, I hope, you will endeavour to become a
sufficient scholar to be fit for going to college in time; and, unless
you very much dislike my plan, I wish you to study divinity, and become
a minister. If I could do more for you, I would; but I have very little
in my own power, and I dare not apply where I might, perhaps, get
assistance, without running the risk of betraying you all to your
watchful enemy; and, besides, by so doing, I must disobey the solemn
charge I received from your father, never to trust you in the power of
any of his relations.
Arthur raised his head, and clasping Williams hand, said
Forgive me, my more than father, for having given you this uneasiness.
I never will, I promise you, from this moment, mention the subject
again, till you choose to explain what I must ever feel so anxious to
ear. My fathers wishes must be as commands to me; and, as you are the
best judge of what they were, I will never dispute your orders in
anything in which you please to direct me; but one question I must ask,
before we quit the subject. Did my father particularly wish me to be a
"No, my dear; he left no directions, further than that I was to act in
the best way I could for your advantage, and that is the only way I can
think of that will give you a chance of returning into your own proper
situation in life.
I am glad of it, answered Arthur, springing up, "for now I may tell
you, that I cannot think of being anything but a soldier; and, unless
you absolutely command me to be a minister, I am sure I never shall
change my mind. Let Jamie go to school at Linton, and let me try what I
can do for myself. I think I know a way in which I shall be able to make
a little money, while I am too young to be a soldier; and, perhaps, when
the time comes for me to leave you, this new laird may help me forward
in the very way I have so much at heart.
William, who did not at all relish the idea of Arthurs being a soldier,
talked a long while with him, trying to convince him how wrong it would
be in him (even if there were no other objections to the plan) to leave
his brother and sister; but Arthur still kept firm to his own
resolution, and was quite unconvinced by any argument he could use. At
last, William thought it best to dispute the point no further at that
time, only saying, before he dismissed him for the night, that nothing
could ever reconcile him to the thought of seeing his masters son enter
the lists as a common soldier; and he was pretty certain that Arthur
never could get into the army in any other way.
I must try all in my power, answered Arthur, to remove this
objection; and I give you my word that I will not disobey you in this
point, provided you will promise not to prevent me from becoming a
soldier, should I be so fortunate as to get a commission. It is, to be
sure, not very easy to see how I can do this; but I will try, and I do
not think it is more impossible for me to succeed than it was for George
Dimock, who, we all know, had as little chance as I have, and yet, by
industry and perseverance, he attained his wishes at last.
In the morning, after Colonel and Mrs. Beaumont had been at the cottage,
William observed, while the children were eating their porridge for
breakfast, that, as he had promised that Arthur and the girls should go
to the house of Glenlyn that evening, he hoped they would be busy
through the day, and get through their ordinary tasks, in time to be
there by five oclock, as it might prevent the laird and his lady from
taking their walk in the evening, if they were later. You, Arthur, must
tell Colonel Beaumont that, on consideration, I do not think I can spare
you from home; and that, therefore, I hope he will not be offended with
me for declining his kind offer of taking you into his family.
Arthur answered quickly, I quite understand, my dear father, what I
must say; I mean to decline his offer civilly; but I must take care that
there is no chance of his being offended with you, as it is entirely
from my own choice that I refuse it; I am determined he shall know that
it is so; otherwise he may serve you as Mr. MFarlane did poor John
Nidry; he may turn you out of your nice cottage, for no reason but
because 1 will not leave you, and does he wishes.
Nonsense, Arthur, do as I desire you. The laird cannot be so foolish as
to be offended at my wishing to keep a boy of your age a little longer
under my own eye.
And what good will it do, dear father, to let him believe that if I
were older than I am now, you would agree to let me become his servant?
You know very well, that if I were ten years older than I am, this can
never happen; and, therefore, it is better to tell him so at once, that
he may never give us any more uneasiness about it. Trust me this once,
and* you shall see I will get out of the business so well, that you
shall have no reason to find fault with me. We shall part good friends,
I am sure, if you will only let me take my own way.
William at that moment was called by one of his neighbours to join him
in his mornings work; he had, therefore, only time to say, See that it
is so, Arthur; for, recollect, I shall be much displeased if you are
guilty of any imprudence at Glenlyn.
The moment William was gone, Arthur called to the children to take their
books, and after hearing all the four read, asked his mother if she
wanted him any more that morning?
No, my dear boy, answered she; but where are you going, Arthur? had
you not better take your own book and read? for you will only tire
yourself if you go out in the heat, and I should like you to look as
well as you can when you go to speak to the laird in the evening.
Oh, I shall look well enough, mother. I have something to say to John
Gibson, at the next village; but I shall take care to be home in time
for dinner; or, at least, to go with my sisters; so, if I am not here by
the time my father comes home, you may tell him where I am. Jane rose
from her wheel, followed him to the door, and looked after him.
He will get, I doubt, far beyond our management, thought she, before
many years pass over his head. Poor William will have a sore heart if
he should turn out either disobedient or neglectful of us; but we have
done our part for him, as yet, and we trust in Providence for the event.
He has many good qualities, and has only one fault that I know of, and
that is a proud spirit, though no one but myself has ever seen it; for,
till now, Williams word has been his law.
Jane was right, to a certain extent, in her opinion of Arthur; but
though, from living constantly with him, she had observed the marked
difference there was in his temper and conduct from any of the other
children, she yet was ignorant of the secret which had for some time
past been the motive of his almost every action. In one of his rambles
through the hills in their immediate neighbourhood, he had accidentally
observed an old man, who appeared busily engaged in picking up something
at the bottom of a deep ravine which the rain had made between the
mountains. Wondering what he could possibly be about, Arthur determined
to go to him, and satisfy his curiosity. It was rather a dangerous
undertaking from the place where he was: but young, and thoughtless of
consequences, he resolved to make the attempt, and had got nearly
two-thirds towards the spot at which he wished to arrive, when,
unfortunately, he trod upon a loose stone, and, losing his balance,
fell. He rolled to the bottom of the ravine without the slightest power
of breaking the fall. He was quite stunned, and lay for some moments
motionless. When he recovered his senses, he found himself lying upon a
miserable little bed, and the same old man he had seen in the ravine
sitting by him, rubbing his temples with water, while his hands
trembled, both from age and alarm at the accident he had just witnessed.
Arthur soon recovered, and then he honestly told the man what had
induced him to put himself in so much danger.
You did very wrong, my young friend, said the old man, to give way to
such idle curiosity; but, if it serves for a warning to you against
being so thoughtless again, it may, in the end, turn to your advantage.
I have lived among these hills for nearly five years, and, till this
day, have never seen a human being attempt to come down the rocks. Once
every week I meet an old herd half way up the mountain, who always
brings me the little provision I require; and, in return, I give him
what pebbles I can pick up among the hills during my rambles, which he
sells in Edinburgh, when he has collected as many as will repay him for
his trouble in walking thither. I suppose he finds it answer his
purpose, or he would not have continued to supply me for such a length
of time; and, as I want but little, and have every reason to believe
that he has kept my secret, we are very good friends, though we never
exchange a word. It is of the utmost consequence that it should not be
known to any one that I am yet alive; and, therefore, I feel that my
safety is endangered by this rash attempt of yours to pry into my
affairs, and really I scarcely know how to act, so as to secure my own
safety. If I keep you with me, your parents will be alarmed; and in the
search they will undoubtedly make for you, they may discover me; if I
let you return to them, I run the risk of your betraying to them my
hiding place, and I may be from it to end my life upon a scaf.
"Ah, no, cried Arthur, "that shall never happen through me. Allow me to
return home, and I give you my solemn promise, that nothing shall ever
induce me to mention to any one my ever having seen you.
The old man, after some hesitation, agreed to let him return home as
soon as he thought he was sufficiently recovered to be able to climb the
hill; and even showed him an easy way of getting out of the ravine,
which was hid by the brushwood that grew at the mouth of it.
Arthur kept his word, and never mentioned to any one what he had that
day discovered; but ne could not resist the inclination of returning to
see his new acquaintance, whenever he had a spare moment to devote to
him; and the old man, finding that the boy could be trusted, soon became
reconciled to his visits, and in the course of them, amused him, from
time to time, with the history of his own country, and all the events
which had led to the late rebellion. These stories struck Arthur the
more, from the imperfect recollection he had of his parents; for, though
he never hinted, in the slightest degree, his suspicions, he had pretty
nearly guessed the true cause of his fathers misfortunes. This made him
return with increased interest to listen to the old mans tales; so that
at last the impression they made upon his mind, induced him to resolve
to become a soldier. One day, when he had been conversing a long time
with his friend, the old man said Arthur, my dear boy, I feel that I
am growing so fond of your society, that I know not what will become of
me, if I should, by any means, be deprived of it; yet I do not think it
is right to entice you to spend so much of your time here, if it is
spent as un-profitably as it has yet been. I wish that I had the means
of procuring a few books, for if I had them, I think I could, in some
measure, repay you for the kindness you have shown towards a poor
miserable old man, who h&s not a creature left in the world but yourself
to care for him. I have a little money, sufficient to procure all that
are necessary; but the difficulty is, how to get them purchased and
conveyed here. I are not employ my old herd, for if he knew that I had
any money, I am afraid my pebbles would not satisfy him as the price of
my provisions. Do you*, think you could buy what I will write down for
you, at Linton, if I give you the money ?
"O yes, answered Arthur, but instantly recollecting himself, added,
No, sir, I am afraid not; for if my father should hear that I have done
so, and question me, I must either betray your secret, or offend him
very much: and though I should like to learn anything you can teach me,
yet not even the hope of learning Latin could induce me to do either.
You are a good and considerate boy, my dear, and I was very wrong in
putting such a temptation in your way. I must try my herd by a promise
of an additional number of stones, if he will get me what I want; but it
is time for you to leave me; I shall be able to tell you how I have
succeeded, the next time I see you.
The. result was, that the herd procured an old French grammar, which
Arthur began to study the very next visit he made to the mountain ; and
he paid so much attention to the instructions of his old friend, that,
at the time of his first introduction to Colonel Beaumont, a period of
nearly six months after he had commenced learning, he could read pretty
well a French New Testament that the old man possessed, and could also
converse fluently in the French language. He carefully, however,
concealed his acquirements for fear of being obliged by their disclosure
to betray old Robert, as he now called his master; and he was even, if
possible, more cautious in concealing his visits to the mountains, as
their value became more understood, from the effects they produced in
enlightening his mind.
It may be easily guessed, from the above narrative, whither he meant to
bend his steps when he parted from Jane. He ran off in the opposite
direction, in order to prevent her from knowing exactly where he was
going; but, soon turning round, took a short cut across the fields, and
in half an hour was at the old mans side, relating to him all his
difficulties with regard, to the lairds offer, and his fathers wish of
making him a minister, and soliciting his advice on the best methods of
avoiding these proposals; as he declared he almost equally detested the
thoughts of both.
Old Robert, much to Arthurs disappointment, approved highly of
Williams plan for his son, and endeavoured to convince the boy that it
was a great mark of kindness in his father to be willing to incur such
an expense as would be necessary for fitting him for the church, which
could only be done by his living with the most scrupulous frugality for
many years. Arthur allowed the justness of this remark, but said, that
he could not, he was sure, feel happy, if he were not allowed to see
more of the world than he could ever do as a clergyman; and that, if he
could only contrive some method of making a little money, sufficient to
support him till he had learnt Latin, which his old friend had promised
to teach him as soon as he had made himself master of French, he felt
quite certain that in a few years he should be able to convince his
father, that his choice of being a soldier was a much better plan for
him; particularly as brother Jamie had no objection to be a minister,
and could take his place at Linton school. I will not go there my self"
continued he, for I have no right to put my father to that expense, if
I do not mean to follow his advice afterwards; and as I know' you can
teach me as well as Mr. Cameron, it would not, I think, be right to be
the means of preventing Jamie from having the advantage of the school.
There is some truth, Arthur, in this last remark, said his kind old
friend, and I will agree, most willingly, to teach you Latin, both for
your brothers sake and your own, provided that, by doing so, I do not
encourage you to resist your fathers wishes. But you must recollect
that I am a very old man, and may not live long enough to be of much
service to you: and that, if you refuse now to go to school, your father
may be so offended with you, as never to put it in your power again; and
then, in the event on my death, you will lose every prospect of
acquiring either education or knowledge.
I will run the risk, sir, rather than promise to do what I am sure will
make me quite miserable. But I must leave you now, as my father will be
displeased if I am not at home at the hour of dinner. When I next see
you, you must tell me what book I must have to begin Latin with, and I
will then try to procure it, in some way or other, the first
Very well, Arthur, but think well on what I have said, before you
absolutely refuse your fathers offer. Arthur nodded assent, and ran
off to the village that he had told his mother he was going to; and
while he is conversing with John Gibson, we shall return to his brothers
and sisters, whom we left at home busily engaged in thinking on their
intended visit to Glenlyn.
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