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Arthur Monteith
By Mrs. Blackford (now Lady Stoddart) (1857) - Chapter 5

A WHOLE fortnight passed from this time, before anything was heard at Glenlyn, either of William or Allen. At last the little postboy returned from Linton with a large packet, addressed to Lady Beaumont It began thus:

“My dear Mary must have been lost in astonishment, at being so long without hearing from her friends in London. Set your heart at rest, my love. Nothing now awaits you but happiness and joy, so far beyond what any of us could ever have anticipated, that the relation will appear almost a fiction to you: for even now, when I have convincing proofs before me of its truth, I feel as if I were in a delightful dream, and dread being awakened from it; but to give you a regular account, I must begin from the day I last wrote to you.

I had scarcely finished my letter, when I was summoned to attend Colonel Monteith; but as no mention was made of Arthur’s being wanted, I left him at the inn. On entering the sick room, I found the invalid considerably worse. The surgeon, who was sitting by him, informed me in a whisper, that his patient had but a few hours to live. As I approached the bed he endeavoured to speak, but a violent spasm prevented him for some minutes. When that was past, he cried, ‘Beaumont, you promised to pray for me. Why should I be obliged to die now, when I have made all the reparation in my power?’ 'Compose your mind, my dear Colonel,’ answered I, 'and allow me to send for a clergyman to assist you in praying for yourself. Neither my prayers nor his can be of any avail unless you confess your sins to God, and endeavour, through the merits of your Saviour to make your peace with heaven.’

"‘I won’t die, I tell you, Beaumont; I am not fit either to pray or to listen to anything a priest can say to me. I have never looked into a Bible since I was a boy at Monteith House. How, then, can I know any thing about the matter?’

"Greatly shocked, I tried all in my power to awaken the poor wretched man to a proper sense of his awful situation. He would isten to nothing I could urge; but continued screaming and declaring that he would not, and could not, die. Alas, we all saw that the violence of his conduct, and his inward compunctions, were rapidly accelerating the very event he dreaded. I will not, my love, harass your mind by a description of the painful scene. Three hours did he continue struggling and suffering beyond anything I ever before witnessed; and God forbid that I should ever again be compelled to be present at so dreadful a termination to a fellow-crea-ture’s life I Hatred to his son seems to have taken complete possession of his mind; and we were forced to oblige Colin to leave the room, as his father’s violence was increased by the very sight of the poor young man. About half-past two in the morning, the Colonel became so weak, as to be unable longer to articulate, and just as the clock struck three, he expired, grasping my hand in agony. For some time before his death, I had knelt at his bedside, praying earnestly for mercy on the dying sufferer. He seemed to give attention tD the ejaculations I uttered; and even at the moment when he drew his last breath, his eyes were eagerly fixed on mine. Oh I what a lesson is sucn a death to all those who not only neglect God themselves but in the hey-day of health and strength make religion a laughing-stock, and by example as well as precept, seduce the young and unwary to tread in their steps. Even his only son became to him an object of hatred and dislike, by reflecting back to him, as in a mirror, his own worthless character, and thereby heightening to his awakened mind the culpability of his own neglect and cruelty, in having reared a fellow-creature who was neither fit to live in this world, nor to be removed to a better.

“Colin was informed of his father’s death, as gently as we could. He raised his heavy «yes to Arthur, and said, ‘Oh, Mathieson, that I had listened to your kind and friendly admonitions! then death would not be arrayed in such terrors, at its near approach. Tell me, oh I tell me, if there is yet time to save me from such an end as has now taken place. The very sound of those screams for mercy and pardon yet ring in my ears, and seem to say that I too am lost for ever.’

“With earnestness and feeling, Arthur entreated him to make use of the time that was yet his own; assuring him that His Heavenly Father was ever willing to receive, through the merits of his son, even the guiltiest of sinners. He recommended his sending for a clergyman to assist him in his devotions, and promised not to leave Richmond till he gave him leave. We waited till the arrival of the clergyman, who appears a truly respectable and pious man; and then, having introduced him to this unfortunate youth, we left the house, and retired to our beds, being extremely exhausted from fatigue both of body and mmd.

“Nearly a week had elapsed, during which, Colin’s illness and state of nervous irritability had chained us constantly to his bed-side, for he never enjoyed a moment’s peace but when holding Arthur by the hand, and listening to his pious and instructive conversation; while I, fearflil, I confess, for the health of my excellent young friend, trembled to leave him, though every day made it more necessary for me to consult with my counsel on the validity of the Colonel’s will, and to take active steps for preventing trouble from the husband of his daughter; Colin having warned me, that unless I was on my guard, this man would be very likely to contest the disposition of his father-in-law’s property.

“One morning, on seeing Colin a little easier, I determined to go to London on this business, Colonel Monteith having been buried two days before. After several hour’s attention to the affair it was at length properly arranged, and I began to think: of returning to Richmond; when having, for the first time, found a spare moment, I sat down to give you an account of all that had passed. Just as I was beginning to write, my servant came up and said, that there were two persons from Scotland below, who would take no denial, but insisted on being admitted to see me. The name of dear Scotland was enough to gain their pardon for so unseasonable an intrusion; I eagerly inquired who they were?

“‘They will not tell their names, sir. They say that their business is urgent, and that they must see you to-night. One of them looks like a farmer, but the other is a genteel young man.’

“'Send them up directly,’ answered I, almost alarmed for the news I was going to receive. But guess my astonishment and delight, on beholding the good and worthy William Mathieson enter the room, with a young man, whom I instantly knew to be his son Allen. After the first moments of so happy a re-union were over, I expressed my regret at Arthur’s absence, and explained the reason of it.

"'1 am quite as well pleased,’ answered William, 'that Arthur is not here at present; my business in London is of a nature that re-quires your private ear in the first place, before eitner he or Allen can be admitted into my secret; and as it is likewise one that requires instant attention, I wish Allen directly to go to bed. He is overcome with fatigue, and will be much better employed in sleeping that off, than in sitting by himself a couple of hours; for so long, I believe, my business will fully occupy us.’

“I instantly rang, and inquired if my friends could be accommodated in the same lodgings with myself; and was fortunate enough to find that they could. As soon, therefore, as Allen’s room was ready, and we had taken some slight refreshment, he left us; and William, drawing his chair closer to mine, began in a low voice a relation which soon rendered me las eager to listen, as he was to relate. I shall not attempt to give it in his own words, but shall merely inform you of the great outlines, reserving all other particulars till we meet.

“He tells me that he was born upon the estate of Monteith; and that he was brought up by his father, as a farmer; and that he looked forward to succeeding to a pretty considerable farm, which his ancestors haa held under the successive Lairds of Monteith for many generations. He was an only son, and as soon as he had attained the age of manhood, his father, (who very naturally wished him to marry and settle near him,) in order to induce him to comply with these wishes, built a pretty cottage at the end of the village of Monteith, adjoining to the farm; and promised him, as a marriage portion, fifty acres of land, with above a hundred more at his death. William, however, was several years before he could fix on a wife; but at last he became acquainted with Jane Morrison, from her living as nursery-maid in the family of Hector Monteith; a mutual attachment took place between them, and as her parents were respectable tenants on Sir Alexander M’Do-nald’s estate, and bore excellent characters, old Mathieson gave his consent to their marriage, which was solemnized when the laird’s eldest child was about two years old.

“From that time, the young couple resided in their cottage in the village, and all seemed to go on well with them. They were respected by their neighbours, and greatly favoured by Mrs. Monteith, who had been much attached to Jane, when in her family; and continued frequently to call on her, and to send the children to visit her, till the unfortunate period of the rebellion. On this occasion, both William .and his father positively refusing to follow the laird, Hector became extremely irritated with them; and for some months all intercourse ceased between the families.

“After the battle of Culloden when Hector was discovered and arrested at the house of your nurse, (who, as you know, was the mother of Jane,) William and his wife became exceedingly anxious for the safety of Mr. and Mrs. Monteith, and the children; and conceived, that as it was perfectly known throughout the country, that the Mathiesons were the only friends of the reigning monarch, on the whole estate of Monteith, they coula

assist their distressed laird and his family, with less suspicion than any one else. In resolving, at length, to mate the attempt, William pretended, to his father, that he was tired of a farmer’s life, and was determined to try what he could do as a carrier between Stirling and Edinburgh. The old man did not like this at all; but He was ill, and not likely to live long; and William, therefore, delayed putting his intentions into execution for a few weeks; at the end of which, his father died, and left him at liberty to follow his own inclinations. He instantly formed his plan, and having prevailed with Jane’s father to come and reside on his farm, quitted Monteith, leaving his wife and children behind him till he had brought his schemes to maturity.

“For several weeks he continued to travel regularly between Edinburgh and Stirling, as a carrier, privately endeavouring, by every means he could devise, to gain access to the prisoners in Stirling Castle, as well as to pick up information on all that concerned them. At last he learned from undoubted authority, that Hector was to be, in a few days, removed to Carlisle, and that the unfortunate mother and her infants were to be committed to the care of Colonel Monteith, whose character he had learnt, many years before, from Jane’s father, who had known him perfectly, and represented him in his true colours. Greatly alarmed, he resolved to risk every thing to save them; and, through a pretty handsome bribe to the under gaoler, who was a relation of Jane’s, he succeeded in gaining access to his master, only two nights before his removal actually took place. In that interview they agreed on a method of saving the children from the hands of the Colonel. The very next morning, before it was light, Monteith, with the assistance of a rope which William had conveyed to him under his clothes, lowered the three poor infants from the prison window, and they were safely received below by the faithful couple; for Jane had joined her husband. Strong gratitude and affection for her kind mistress, had even induced her to quit a father to whom she was powerfully attached, and whose influence over her mind had, till then, been irresistible.

“Having thus obtained possession of the children, William conveyed them, as he had been directed by their father, to Edinburgh, to their mother’s aunt, Mrs. Rachel Campbell, who placed them under the care of Jane Mathieson, at an obscure house in the Can-nongate, promising him every assistance in her power for their support. William, returning to his business of carrier, was able, by that means, to obtain occasional information of their unhappy mother; but he found her so strictly watched, that without endangering the discoveiy of the children, he never could venture to approach her. She at last died; and he was no sooner certain of this feet, than he hurried to Carlisle, in hopes of being able to get admission to his master, and to receive from him more exact directions concerning the disposal of the in&nts. He reached that town, however, only in time to see him brought out on the scaffold. With some difficulty, he succeeded in attracting poor Monteitn s notice; who, with astonishing presence of mind contrived, in an address, which, to all but William, had the appearance of being meant for the whole assembly,) to give him a solemn charge to educate and bring up the children as nis own.

“The fatal scene was no sooner over, than William returned to his wife, and informed her of the engagement he had taken upon himself with regard to the orphans. He gave her a free option, either to leave him altogether, and return to her father, or to take a solemn vow that she would never (till he gave her leave) utter even to him, the name of Monteith; and agree to retire with him into some obscure part of the country, where the children might pass for their own.

“Jane, to her honour be it recorded, did not hesitate a moment in her choice between the two alternatives. She instantly took the vow prescribed by her husband; nor during the many long years that have since passed, has she, either in prosperity or in adversity, ever shown the slightest symptom of regret at having sacrificed so much to secure the welfare of her poor mistress’s orphans.

“Mrs. Campbell died at the end of two years, and left William three hundred pounds, being all that she durst venture to withraw from her little property, without exciting suspicion in the minds of her heirs. On the event of her death, William thought a country life was much better suited both to himself and his wife, than the business he had engaged in. He therefore set about seeking employment as a labourer, upon some estate in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh; and was fortunate enough, to be hired by our friend M’Farlane, who was then in want of a farm-servant at Glenlyn. He removed thither early in the spring, and, by his good conduct and abilities, soon recommended himself so much to his employer, as to receive in reward for his industry one of the new cottages at Carlin’s Loup, where he had lived about five years before we so fortunately discovered the dear children, that memorable evening at Habbie’s How.

“His treatment of the different members of his family is now completely explained; and I think it more clearly shows his strong good sense and rectitude than any other part of his conduct It, likewise, clearly explains Arthur’s firm refusal to become our foot-boy at a time when, to those not in the secret, his conduct appeared no less extraordinary than the sanction his father gave to his refusal. William tells me, that, young as Arthur was when he quitted ms parents in Stirling Castle, he retained the recollection of them so firmly in his mind, that on a conversation which our offer occasioned between them, he found it was in vain to attempt to deceive him. Arthur declared, that he knew he was not his son; but that his parents were gentlefolks, like the laird and his lady. William, upon reflection, deemed it best to own that the boy was right. He, therefore, told him that such was the case; but that his real father, in committing his three children to the charge of their supposed parent, had exacted a promise, that their origin should be concealed until the youngest had attained the age of manhood, nor even be revealed but under strong restrictions. This had the best possible effect on the mind of Arthur, who, from that moment, religiously abstained from even mentidning the subject It, however, gave his mind, undoubtedly, a stimulus to improvement, and determined nim to tiy all the means that education and study could furnish, to fit himself for the rank to which he was born. How he succeeded in acquiring not only general knowledge, and the accomplishments of a scholar, but likewise very considerable skill in the French and Italian languages, with a degree of polish and elegance of manners, beyond what Scotch lads in any rank of life commonly attain, has always appeared to me to be next to miraculous. William, however, tells me, that Arthur owned to him, there was a secret in his education which he was not at liberty to disclose, but which he hoped to be able to explain at some future time to his satisfaction.

Whatever his secret is, Allen (who, I have no doubt, you guess by this time is Mon-teith’s second son) appears to have shared in its advantages; at least as far as manner and address go; for he is certainly as genteel and well bred a young man as I have seen for a long time. William says, there was no one circumstance that gave him more pleasure than your offer to take charge of one of his daughters; for it was the only thing he could not manage to his own satisfaction, or that of his wife, who fretted, even more than he did, at the idea of her dear mistress’ daughter, Jessie, being brought up in a cottage, ignorant of the manners and accomplishments that had been so conspicuous in her mother.

“On hearing you read Colonel Monteith’s confession, and learning the near prospect of his death, William wisely thought that no time ought to be lost in drawing up a petition to government for the restitution of the children’s rights; a great many letters and papers, tending to corroborate the facts relative to the means used to seduce both their father and Sir Alexander, had been placed in his hands by Monteith, when he saw him in Stirling Castle, and these papers he has now brought to town with him. I am busily engaged in preparing a representation of the case to government, in which I have been greatly assisted by some documents and papers delivered to me by Allen; though he refuses to explain how he came by them, till the result of the application is known. I know not what to suspect; but I believe you must be in that secret, as you have already owned you are with regard to your father’s seal.

“William and I must remain in London during this business; but we have dispatched Allen to the assistance of his brother, who writes, that Colin continues much in the same state as when I left him. Do not, William begs of you, inform Jessie of her real birth, at present; as he thinks it better, till he can return home, to conceal it both from her and Jamie, who, no doubt, poor fellow, will be greatly hurt at being in one moment deprived of three relatives to whom he has always been so strongly attached. The restriction, however, does not extend to Jane. She well deserves every comfort and attention in our power to pay her. Arthur and Allen are to know nothing of what has been discovered, till we can join them at Richmond, as it would naturally distract them from the attention and care they ought to pay to their suffering cousin; and, in other respects would answer no good purpose. You shall hear from me again, as soon as I can give you any good news; but do not be impatient, for my time is so occupied that I have not a moment to myself.”

“How amazing!” exclaimed Lady Beaumont, laying her letter on the table, “that Jessie, the adopted niece of Beaumont and mvself, should turn out to be the daughter of my own dear Mary Campbell, the companion and playmate of my infant years. Oh! how richly am I rewarded for having chosen this sweet girl, from all other children, and for having bestowed on her the advantages which my own acquirements and information have enabled me to communicate; advantages that were gained years ago, in the society of her own mother!”

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