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The Scottish Orphans
By Mrs. Blackford (now Lady Stoddart) (1857) - Chapter 6


Arthur was, from this moment, employed by the Colonel, till the hour of his leaving Glenlyn, when, knowing that his father, who had been engaged at some distance from Lochmore that morning, was not likely to have yet returned home, he ventured to go to the mountain, in order to tell his friend there what had happened, and to solicit his advice with regard to the answer he must give to Mrs. Beaumont, relative to the seal and writing.

Old Robert was evidently waiting impatiently for his arrival. “I have expected you, Arthur, for nearly an hour. What has Kept you so late? Has the Colonel changed his mind, or how is it?”

Arthur, as composedly as he could, related all that had passed that morning at Glenlyn; and when he had finished, he asked what answer he must give, if Mrs. Beaumont should press him again on the subject Robert listened to the whole account with great interest. “I thought it would be so/ I was sure of it,” and many remarks of the same kind escaped him, during the recital; but when he came to the scene in the dressing-room, he shook his head, and said, “Mary, Mary, always imprudent, though ever affectionate. In this instance, however, no harm has been done. My dear Arthur will no more betray Sir Alexander M‘Donald, than he has yet done old Bobert. You must rather seek than shun her inquiries, my dear, and tell her distinctly that you both know the handwriting ana the seal of the note, but that a solemn vow binds you to secrecy, and that you will rather resign your appointment than break it. I know if you tell her this, she will never again press you on the subject, and I will take care, when you are gone, to reward her for the kindness she has shewn to you.”

Arthur thanked his old friend for his advice, and then proceeded to consult him on the subject of his new appointment, the duties of which he was unacquainted with. The old man entered, with the energy and spirit of youth, into all that regarded it; telling his pupil that he must spend as much time as possible with him, whilst he remained in the country, in order to learn how to conduct himself when called on to mix with the world. "Alas! my young friend,” continued the old roan, “they will be the last hours that we are ever likely to gild the evening of my wretched life with. Providence has, however, been very kind in not permitting me, even in this solitude, to lead either a useless or an idle life. In forming your mind, and fitting you for entering into the world, such as you now are, I fully believe I have been as usefully employed, as if I had been living in what was once my own house, in the midst of my family and friends. I shall feel your loss deeply; but still I shall ever rejoice in the chance that has brought us together; and shall not cease, while I exist, to pray for your happiness and success in this world, looking forward with confidence to the hope of meeting you in a more lasting and a better one.”

Arthur was deeply affected; he grasped the hand of his old friend; and, as if almost afraid to make the proposal that hovered upon his lips, could scarcely speak distinctly. The old man looked at him. “You have not said all you wished, Arthur. Speak out, my dear boy. If I can serve you in any way, do not fear to make your request known. My own son was never dearer to me than you are.”

“I cannot venture to say, my dear sir, that I have a request to make to you, because I cannot exactly know how it may please you. I wish to propose that you would allow me to confide the secret of your residence here to my brother Allen. He is as honourable and as trustworthy, I am confident, as ever I was, and would as strictly confine to his own breast any secret I repose in him. His studies are much the same that mine were, for the first year or two that I was with you; and I have little doubt that, as he advances in age, he will become a companion who may amuse you, and execute all the little commissions I have hitherto done. He is likely to remain constantly in the country for several years; and even when he goes to college, he will always return to Lochmore during the summer months. Through his means, I could keep up a constant correspondence with you, which would, I think, both amuse and interest you; and my mind would be kept at rest by learning from him everything relative to your wishes and wants.”

Old Robert had uniformly, by a shake-of his head, negatived Arthur’s proposal through all the various advantages he had represented as likely to result from it, till he came to where he said that through Allen he could hold constant intercourse with him. That made him raise his eyes; and when Arthur stopped, he said, “If I thought that any other boy could be trusted, I believe I might be tempted to confide in your brother, for the prospect it holds out to me of hearing from and of you; but the thing is so improbable, and the risk I run so great, that I dare not, in common prudence, agree to it, either for my own sake, or for that of one who is far dearer to me than life.” Arthur thought it best not to urge the matter further at that moment; he therefore left the mountain, promising to go to Glenlyn the next morning, and give Mrs. Beaumont the answer Robert recommended, and afterwards, as soon as he could get away, return to his friend, to benefit as much as possible, during the short while he had to remain in the country, by his instructions.

When William was informed of the Colonel’s proposal of taking Arthur, he Clasped his hands, and answered, “The hand of Providence, my son, is in this, and. it becomes not me to offer any objections to so rational and unlooked-for a way of placing you in the rank you are entitled to fill. Under Colonel Beaumont’s care, I can have no fear in permitting you to enter the world, as I am confident that he will watch over your moral and religious conduct, as much as he will endeavour to instruct you in the duties which your new situation requires. Act but towards him as uniformly well as you have ever done towards me, and if your life is spared for a few years, I have no doubt that we shall both have to glory in having been made the instruments of rearing and protecting the orphan son of my dear and ever-valued master.”

From this day preparations began to be made for the departure of the Colonel and his young aid-de-camp. Mrs. Beaumont listened to Arthur’s answer, which had been prescribed by Robert. She wept much when she understood it, but never afterwards attempted to draw any more information from him on the subject, though, from that time, her attention and kindness, both towards him and Jessie, seemed to be redoubled.

A few days before the travellers were to quit the country, Robert informed Arthur that he had resolved to allow him to introduce Allen to him. “I find I cannot give up all hope of corresponding with you, my dear son, without sacrificing my life in the attempt. I have determined, therefore, to admit your brother into my confidence, and trust that I may find in him an equally honourable mind with your own.”

Arthur felt, at this information, as if a load had been removed from his mind. He thanked his friend, and promised to bring his brother with him the next day, as he could easily intercept him on his way from school; and if his absence were to be observed, he could account for it by stating, that he had much to say to him oefore he left him, and had detained him in walking for the purpose of conversing more at liberty than in the presence of the family.

The next day, he accordingly met Allen, as he had planned, and with much caution communicated to him some part of his secret. Allen listened to the history of Arthur’s education with the greatest astonishment, and then grasping his brother’s hand, said, “Tell me, my dearest Arthur, if it lies in my power to repay in any way the great debt of gratitude we all owe to this poor, desolate old man, rest assured, that if secrecy is still required for his security, no temptation, however strong, shall induce me to betray what you may intrust me with; and during your absence, nothing that I can do, either to add to his comfort, or insure his safety, shall ever be neglected. I own, I am greatly pleased to find that your astonishing progress in Latin and Greek is now accounted for; as, since I have known the difficulty of acquiring such knowledge, I have looked upon myself as certainly one of the greatest dunces in the world, for being so infinitely behind you, though enjoying, what appeared to me, such very superior advantages. Now, though I still think you have great merit in the constant and unremitting application you have practised, I yet see the means by which you acquired the knowledge of the peculiarities of the languages, to attain which, by your own exertions, has ever appeared to me almost a miracle.”

Arthur smiled. “I don’t wonder much, Allen, at your surprise. Indeed, I have been greatly astonished that Mr. Brown should have been so easily deceived into the belief that I was entirely self-taught; but let us return to my good, worthy master. He has, at my earnest entreaties, at last consented, before I quit the country, to allow you to be intrusted with his secret; and I have promised, that if he will admit you to his retirement, you will supply my place, in some measure, to him, and manage all his little concerns, as quietly and attentively as I have done myself. Are you willing to undertake this charge? It is one of considerable responsibility, Allen, and therefore you must not enter into it without being aware of all its difficulties. Not even my father must ever be allowed to suspect that you have any motive for absenting yourself from the house, more than you have been accustomed as yet to do, than merely your love of a solitary walk.”

Allen answered, “I fully understand, brother, what I engage in, and am ready to bind myself by any promise you think necessary. As far as is possible to comply with your directions, I will most scrupulously fulfil them; but you must clearly explain to your old friend, that in me he can never have either a companion, or a confident, equal in judgment and forethought with the one he is about to lose.”

“An honourable and faithful intention to discharge, conscientiously, the engagement you come under, both to him and me, will enable you, my dear Allen, to perform all that is required of you; and I have no doubt that you will receive, from the intercourse with old Robert, quite as much advantage as I have done.”

“Oh! Arthur, if I could hope ever to resemble you in any degree, there is no sacrifice I would not make, nor any exertion I would not attempt, to enable me to attain it.” “Attend then closely, my dear Allen, to the instructions of my kind old master, and there is no fear but that in a few years you will far outstrip me in literary acquirements as well as in useful knowledge.”

Arthur soon led him into a sort of cave formed by nature in the rock, about the middle of which he stopped, and passing behind a great stone that nearly divided it, followed a narrow path for several yards in total darkness, at the end of which, he pushed aside some thick brushwood, and bade Allen follow him. Here all was wild and desolate: the ravine, formerly mentioned, lay at the foot of the rock they then stood on; through the middle of it wound a little streamlet, which appeared only at intervals between the bushes. They descended from the rock, crossed the ravine, and ascended the opposite side.

“What a wild place you are bringing me to,” said Allen; “I thought I had known every step of these hills as well as any one in the country; but I never came near this spot in any of my wanderings.”

“It was chance alone that brought me to this spot,” answered Arthur, “if, indeed, I ought to say so, when, considering the advantages that have arisen from it, it really appears as if Providence had, for its own good purposes, directed my steps hither, at the very time when I most required assistance. But here we are,” continued he, putting aside the bushes, "and there is my aear friend, watching for our arrival.”

A spot of green grass, about twenty yards square, lay in the very heart of the brushwood; and on one side of it, a small thatched cottage, completely screened from observation, even from the top of the hills which rose above it, by the spreading branches of two large trees that grew on each side. Old Robert was seated on a large stone at the door. He rose directly, on seeing Arthur, and held out his hand to welcome him. He appeared to be between sixty and seventy years of age, rather below the middle size, stout made, with a healthy, cheerful countenance. His hair was quite white, and rather bald, a high forehead, quick eye, with an aquiline nose, and a small mouth, which even yet was furnished with a good set of teeth. Altogether, he certainly must have been considered, by even better judges than the two boys, who now joined him, as a remarkably handsome man for his years. The expression of delight that played on his countenance, as he listened to Arthur’s account of his brother’s willingness to become his future friend and assistant, completely won Allen’s heart; and when they separated in the evening, both parties seemed equally pleased with each other; Robert having assured Arthur that he was now quite satisfied in having granted his prayer, as no one could doubt either the honour or fidelity of Allen, who looked in his face.

The week passed quickly away, the end of which was to carry the Colonel and Arthur from their friends. The evening before the day they had fixed to set out, Arthur, during a confidential conversation which he held with his father, entreated that he would inform him who he really was; but William positively refused to do this, alleging, that ne had pledged his word to his master, not to divulge the secret, even to his children, till an event had taken place, which, in the ordinary course of nature, could not now be at any great distance. “You are still, Arthur, very young, and therefore I do not think, even if I were at liberty to repeat to you your father’s history, I should choose to do it for some years yet; but as it is, the thing is entirely out of the question. I have taken precautions to secure your getting at the knowledge of everything that concerns your family in the event of my sudden death; and likewise, my dear boy, have lodged, in the same hands, proofs sufficient to ascertain your real birth, m case any chance of your regaining possession of your father’s property should occur. I have written this letter,” continued he, giving a sealed packet into his hand, “which I mean for you, and request that you may always carry it about you; it contains directions as to where you must apply for my narrative, if I should die before your return to your native country. If I live till the event happens that sets me at liberty to relate your father’s history to you and your brother and sister, you may depend on receiving it by the very next ship that leaves England after the event takes place; but if it should so happen that I am taken away before that time, let me entreat that, at all events, you will not claim my papers till you have attained your one-and-twentieth year.”

Arthur answered, “Your will, my dear father, is, and ought to be, my law. I confess I am disappointed, as I had hoped that before I left you, you might have judged it proper to confide to me who my natural parents were; but since it was their will to direct you to act otherwise, I shall never urge you, on that, or any other subject, to act contrary to what you know to have been their pleasure.”

“Thank you, my dear boy, for this high proof of confidence; believe me, it repays me for everything I have done for you. Anxiety alone for your welfare, would at present prevent me from even putting it in your own power rashly to betray your existence to any human being. To no one, but Jane and myself, is it at present known. After having quitted my own country, and sacrificed our connection with all our friends, for the sake of keeping it within our own breasts, it would be acting weakly, if, merely to gratify a curiosity, which, though very natural, can yet produce no good end, in the present posture of affairs, I were to risk, by a premature disclosure, all the good I have struggled so many years to secure. No selfish motive, Arthur, ever actuated me, in anything that regarded you; and even to my latest breath, there is no sacrifice I will not willingly make, if required, to insure either your happiness or your security.”

“I know it well, dear father,” answered Arthur, in a low, tremulous voice: “and when I forget or reject your counsels, I must be unworthy of the light of heaven.”

“I do not fear, my son, that that time will ever come,” answered William, cheerfully; “you have ever been a dutiful and obedient boy, from the first moment of your being mine. In one instance alone, did you ever oppose the slightest of my wishes, and in that very instance you were right, and I was clearly wrong; as it undoubtedly was much better for you, in every point of view, to go into the world, than to settle quietly as a clergyman here, though my limited means rendered it impossible for me to think it likely that you could ever be rendered fit for doing so how you have contrived to overcome all difficulties, I can hardly yet understand; but even I, who have in former times seen many gentlemen of high rank and education, am quite convinced that no one, let him be who he may, need blush at having you for a companion.”

Arthur coloured deeply, and pressing his father’s hand, said, “When you, dear sir, confide to me the secret intrusted to you by my parents, perhaps I may be at liberty, in return, to relate to you, in confidence, the only thing I ever concealed from you in my life. At present, your vow is not more binding than the promise that passed my lips, nearly five years ago; and till the reason for silence on my part is removed, my father will not, I am sure, urge me to break it. I cannot, however, allow you to believe that the change in my manners, and increase of knowledge, were all acquired merely from my own industry. I have had advantages oi so high a stamp, that had I not profited by them, I should have deserved to have sunk into everlasting oblivion, and remained, during life, the humble assistant of poor, honest John Gibson.”

William looked surprised, while Arthur was speaking; but imagining that Mr. Brown had taught him, in secret, and perhaps from the fear of making his other parishioners jealous, if they knew that he gave so much of his time to one boy, had stipulated for his silence on the subject, he answered him with a smile, saying, “ Well, my boy, whoever has taught you, has great reason to be proud of his scholar; and since you have learnt nothing but good from his instructions, I have no right to complain, or wish to pry into a secret he wishes to conceal.”

Next morning, Arthur, after a very melancholy parting with his mother and Annie, at last was drawn from their arms by William, who, though scarcely less agitated himself, yet felt the necessity, for all their sakes, to shorten so painful a moment. Arthur had executed Annie’s commission, by procuring a handsome Bible for her mother, and had added another exactly similar, as a parting gift to herself. He had taken an opportunity, in the morning, to give her the hooks, and to return to her, her well-hoarded sixpences, telling her, that be must insist on her allowing him to pay for both, and he hoped that when her mother’s birthday came round, she would present it, from him, as a proof that he never could forget the happiness which that day had always conferred on him, as well as on all the rest of her children.

"And it will go hard with me, Annie,” said he, “if I do not enable you, in one way or another, to put her in mind of your oldest brother, on that day, every time it comes round, as long as I am absent.”

Poor Annie could only answer by her tears. She gladly received the books, and hurried with them to her own little box, to prevent the possibility of their being seen, till the time fixed for producing them.

Allen and Jamie accompanied their father and brother to Glenlyn, where all was nearly ready for the travellers’ departure, by the time they arrived. Mrs. Beaumont appeared more composed than was expected; she was pale, and looked as if she haa not slept; but still she spoke cheerfully, and evidently tried to exert herself. Jessie, on the contrary, for the first time in her life, seemed to have lost her resolution. She clasped Arthur in her arms, and wept on his neck, the whole time he was with her. On his part, the separating from her almost overpowered him; and when the Colonel motioned him to follow him, he eagerly called to his father, and putting her into his arms, said, “ Guard her, dear sir, as you would do Annie, from every harm that may assail her, till my return, m whatever shape it may come. To you and Allen 1 intrust her; and may the time arrive, when I shall be able to receive her from your hands* to part from her no more!”

“We shall all protect her, dear Arthur, be assured,” exclaimed Jamie. “Jessie is as dear to me as Annie is, and though you and Allen are more learned than I am, yet still I am confident, neither of you would do more to protect and provide for our sisters, than I will always do.”

Arthur turned to him as he was quitting the room, and, straining him to his breast, whispered, “I know it, Jamie, and ought not to have made the exception I did; but you will forgive me, and impute it only to inattention, not to any want of confidence or love.” William was still detained in soothing Jessie; but, fearing that he should lose a last embrace from the son he so dearly loved, he disengaged her arms from his neck, and putting her gently on the sofa, ran out of the room. He was just in time to catch Arthur’s hand, as the latter was stepping reluctantly into the carriage, after having lingered as long as he could at the bottom of the stairs. The Colonel, oppressed with his own feelings, guessed what detained him, and, wishing to spare William the pain of a final leave-taking, he called so loudly for Arthur, that he had been forced to obey. William’s arrival saved him from the agony of goi&g without receiving a last embrace; but, fearful of trespassing too much on the Colonel’s patience, they separated directly; he sprung into the carriage, and in one moment was driven from Glenlyn.

POSTSCRIPT, BT THE AUTHOR.

Thus, my dear young readers, have you seen, that Arthur’s perseverance in the paths of Industry and Virtue was rewarded by his attaining the object of an honourable ambition.


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