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Arthur Monteith
By Mrs. Blackford (now Lady Stoddart) (1857) - Chapter 4

Lady Beaumont, on the receipt of this letter, was sitting in company with Allen and Jessie. William also had called, in the evening, to inquire if she had heard any thing of the travellers. She read it aloud, to account to them for their having no letters themselves. William, the moment Colonel Monteith’s name was mentioned, turned his chair round from Lady Beaumont, and leaning his elbow on the tame, covered his face with his hand, and continued to listen with an intensity of feeling beyond description. When she came to the part where Sir Charles mentioned the manner in which Colonel Monteith had overheard the conversation of the Highland men with him, relative to Sir Alexander’s place of concealment, her voice trembled, so that she could scarcely be heard; till Allen, who sat farthest from her, sprung up, exclaiming, "Oh, Lady Beaumont! let me hear this; I know there must have been some great deception, and always have maintained it, in spite of all the facts that seemed so decisive.”

“Bless you for that, my dear Allen, you have been a friend, indeed, when all else condemned us.” She sank upon his shoulder, and remained drowned in tears for some minutes; when, raising herself, she smiled faintly in his face, and said, “Oh! plead for me, Allen, and let me for one moment be pressed to his arms again, and I will bless you while existence remains, or memory holds her seat.” Allen pressed her hand, and whispered caution; which instantly recalled her to herself; and turning to Jessie, who was observing them with astonishment, she said, “My love, Allen and I have had some confidential intercourse with regard to my father. The surprise of the moment has made us forget that we were not alone; but still we are with v friends, and need only say, that what has passed must be confined to your own bosoms.” “Strange,” said William, raising his head, “that I should not have known you were the daughter of Sir Alexander M’Donald!”

“Did you know my father?” asked Lady Beaumont, in a quick voice.

"I saw him, madam, many years ago; but never knew that Sir Charles was his nephew.” “Sir Charles is the son of his eldest sister, who married in England when very young. He never was in Scotland till about five years before my father’s death, when he spent a summer at Dun-Evan. During his stay there, we became attached to each other; but, as he was in the army of the present king, my father positively refused to allow us to marry, as he thought it would greatly offend the friends of the Stuarts, with whom he was connected, and who had already shown some jealousy of his even receiving a visit from his nephew. Sir Charles left the country upon this refusal; but we still contrived to correspond together, and, at last, he prevailed oif me to quit my father’s house, and marry him privately. I almost hoped that my father was pleased at our having taken this step, as it completely exonerated him from any blame. He had, I knew, a high opinion of Charles, both as a man and a Christian; and would have willingly agreed to our marriage, had it only depended upon himself; but that, or any thing else, ne would have sacrificed rather than have excited the suspicions of his friends.

“I soon found-that my hopes in this respect were not fallacious, as we received a letter of forgiveness very shortly after our marriage; but my dear father at the same time said, that he must refrain from holding intercourse with us, till the minds of our countrymen were more settled on political matters. For three years from that period, we only heard about once a twelvemonth from him, and then merely received a few lines, to say that he was welL At last, the unfortunate rebellion brokeout. Our fears, that my father would join in it, were but too soon confirmed. Charles, who was ordered upon duty, marched into Scotland with the Duke of Cumberland, and was with him at the battle of Culloden. Before he went, I entreated him, if he ever loved me, that he would exert all his influence to save my father. This he promised to do, and faithfully kept his word. During the heat of battle, he rescued him from the hands of a party of Colonel Monteith’s regiment, who nad surrounded him. He had no time to speak; but appearing to take my father prisoner, he committed him to the care of an old servant, on whose fidelity he could rely. With this person he had previously settled to what place the dear captive should be conducted.

“Hector Monteith was taken with my father, and they were carried off the field together, to the place appointed. The moment the battle was over, Charles contrived to be sent to Perth with despatches, which he had no sooner delivered, tnan he hurried to the rendezvous ; but, before he reached it, he ^as met by my nurse’s husband, who had removed my father to another place, as he suspected that they had been watched. This man was the bearer of a letter from my father, who said that he fully relied on his nephew’s honour, and entreated him to make every exertion to secure his flight, as well as that of his friend, Hector Monteith. You know all the rest; except that on understanding from the party that was sent to seize them, that it was Charles by whom they had been betrayed, he wrote a letter to me full of bitterness, against the unpardonable treachery of my husband, declaring that from that moment he disclaimed us both. The account of the shipwreck of the vessel in which we believed him to have embarked, soon followed the receipt of this dreadful letter; and, from that time, my friends, even the consciousness of innocence has been insufficient to lighten the misery that the belief of his death occasioned us. This unlooked-for explanation of the unhappy discovery, will however, I trust, in time restore my dear husband’s peace of mind, and lead to years of consolation and happiness.” Lady Beaumont having given this explanation, went on with her husband’s letter. As soon as she had finished it, William rose and thanked her for the communication; and then turning to Allen, he said, “Return home, my son, with me; I have something of consequence to arrange with you before I go to Edinburgh, where I must be early to-morrow morning. This business of the lease must be settled before Sir Charles returns, for I cannot allow him to find me behind hand in any of the affairs committed to my charge.”

“I am sure, William, he will only be astonished at your regularity, and the improvements you have effected during his absence. The estate has almost doubled its value since you have had it in your hands. It will be quite impossible for him ever to repay you for the attention and trouble you have bestowed upon his concerns.”

“We won’t talk of obligations, dear madam; the general and I understand each other; that is all, and that is what every landlord and tenant cannot boast o£ Our obligations are mutual; and will be all settled, I trust, shortly. But good evening: I must go. Come, Allen, make haste; it is late.”

Lady Beaumont regretted exceedingly that Allen was obliged to leave her; but she could not interfere, as his father said he had business with him. When they had departed, she kissed Jessie, saying that the letter had agitated her a great deal, and, therefore, she would retire to her room, for the rest of the evening.

William, during his walk to Lochmore, informed Allen that business, which he could not mention, even to him, required his immediate presence in London. “ I must see Sir Charles directly; and, therefore, I mean to leave this place in a few hours; but Lady Beaumont must not know where I am gone at present I could have wished, Allen, to have taken you along with me; but I know not how I can do that without exciting her ladyship’s suspicion, and alarming her as to the nature of my business.”

Allen stopped hastily, and, catching hold of his fathers arm, said, “I too, dear father, should wish, of all things, to go to London. Nay, I even doubt whether your business is of more consequence than mine; but till you mentioned your desire of taking me with you, I had not dared even to admit the possibility of accomplishing it. Secrecy, however, is so essential with regard to my motives for going to London, that I am not at liberty to explain them, even to you. But if you write a note to Lady Beaumont, saying, that you have determined on carrying me with you to Edinburgh, she may naturally suppose, you intend to inquire about the next winter’s classes at the University for me. This notion will satisfy her mind, for at least a week or ten days; and I hope, by that time, I shall be able, either to write to her myself and explain the reason of my absence, or else to leave London on my return home.”

“I don’t quite understand, Allen, what motive you can have for wishing so earnestly to go to London; unless, indeed, it is to see your dear brother, and that is not necessary to be kept a secret: but, as you do not ask me to explain my plans, I will not press for yours. Thanks be to God, my dear boy, I never yet had cause to distrust you; and, believe me, I will not now admit an injurious suspicion of your conduct into my mind. It is the reward, both of children and parents, who have lived together as we have done, that in times of even seeming mystery, they can fully, and unconditionally, trust to each other, without harbouring a doubt on either side. I will write the note you have suggested, and you shall accompany me on my journey. May we both succeed in the business in which we are so much interested!”

“I thank you, my dear father, for this indulgence; and, believe me, that you never shall have cause to regret the reposing in me so unqualified a confidence. I must, however, claim your indulgence a little farther, and leave you for a couple of hours, as the business which interests me so much cannot be executed without some documents which I must procure before I return home. The time, I trust, will soon arrive, when I may be permitted to disclose all to you. Meanwhile, I can only say, that the secret is rather Arthur’s than mine; and, till I have seen him, I am bound by a solemn promise, never to let it pass my lips.”

“Arthur, my dear Allen, is as incapable of acting improperly as you are yourself; therefore, if the secret relates to him, I have a double security of its propriety. Make haste and secure your documents; and I will go directly home, and prepare your mother and Jamie for our departure.”

Next morning, Lady Beaumont watched eagerly for a note from her father, which she made sure of receiving; but no note arrived, nor did Allen return. In the evening, Jamie called and delivered a few lines from William, that added greatly to her uneasiness; as she saw distinctly, that, till Allen’s return, she had no chance of any communication from Sir Alexander. Jamie could give her no idea about the time his father and brother meant to return, and remarked, on leaving her, that she had better not expect them very soon, as lawyers were usually very dilatory, and William had said that he would possitively not come back without the lease.

The second day of their absence she pro posed to accompany Jessie in her usual morning visit to her mother. “I am glad you will go with me, dear aunt,” answered Jessie; “for to tell you the truth, I did not think my mother quite like herself yesterday. She kissed me over and over again; asking me if I were quite sure I should always love her, and never agree to leave her. My answers only made her cry, and say she was not worthy to be the mother of such a child.”

“Your mother was low-spirited, I suppose, at being left alone. It is at such times that the recollection of poor Annie returns with redoubled poignancy. I must try to persuade her to spend the day with us; and Jamie can come for her in the evening.” They then set out on their walk. They found Jane engaged at her spinning-wheel; she looked pale, and her eyes were heavy. “What is the matter, dear mother?” asked Lady Beaumont, addressing her, as usual, by that family appellation. “Is anything wrong either witn you or William? You look as if you had not slept.”

“Oh, madam, I am quite well; only I am a little foolish, and cannot sleep for thinking of my dear child here, who will, no doubt, be going away with her brother, who is come home so rich and grand; he will never let her stay with poor folks like us, I am sure.”

"How can you admit such a thought into your mind, Jane, against such children as either Arthur or Jessie? Really, I must scold you for being so foolish as you say you are. If I know any thing of their disposition, the greatest pleasure they can ever feel, will be to contribute to your comfort and happiness, as long as you and William are spared to them.”

“Ah, madam, that is just what William keeps telling me; but still I have my fears.” “Nonsense, Jane I Don’t give way to such absurd, not to say unjust suspicions. Come, put on your Sunday's gown; you shall go with Jessie and me to Glenlyn. I’ll warrant you, a day spent with- us will chase away all such follies from your mind.”

Jane made many excuses, but at last she consented; and having given all the necessary directions to the little girl whom William had hired to live with her from the time of Poor Annie’s death, she accompanied Lady Beaumont And her daughter home, and in the course of the day recovered her spirits so far as to appear perfectly cheerful. Jessie saw her home; and when taking leave for the night, was again pressed to her mother’s breast, who with a flood of tears exclaimed, “I will try, dear Jessie, to believe that you will never forsake me; for I really think, were I to lose you I should soon go into the grave. Remember the promise you made our dear Annie, that you would always supply her place to me as long as I live. I am easy whenever I think of that; for I know you loved her sincerely, and will never break a promise so solemnly given.”

“Never, mother,” answered Jessie, looking surprised; “but even without that promise, how can my mother think so meanly of her own child. It hurts me greatly when you speak thus; as I think I must, however unintentionally, have been guilty of some neglect that I am not aware of.”

“Oh no, my child! you have always been the best and kindest of girls to me and mine. I never will again pain you as I have done these two last days; out when the trial comes, you will understand the meaning of my fears.”

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