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The Scottish Orphans
By Mrs. Blackford (now Lady Stoddart) (1857) - Chapter 4

In the morning, William found Arthur waiting to accompany him, as he had desired. He had judged it prudent to hold a conversation with him, in the first instance, on the subject of Jessie’s going to Glenlyn, before he even mentioned it to his wife. If he found the boy averse to the plan, he scarcely thought himseff at liberty to pursue it. Arthur listened to William’s story in silence, and then, grasping his hand, said—

"I thank you, my dear father, for the confidence you have now placed in me. Deeply do I feel your kindness in this, as well as in all your conduct to us, since we have been your children. If I live, I trust I shall be able to prove what my feelings are, by something better than words. I am a proud boy, and I own, with shame, that, had you agreed to give the laird my sister, without telling me of it, it is very likely I might have been more angry ana hurt, than I have the smallest right to be with any measure you think proper to adopt. But now the case is quite different; and I feel that I am too young to pretend to give an opinion upon the subject. You are by far the best judge of what is really for Jessie’s advantage; and as Mrs. Beaumont does not mean her to be considered in the light of a servant, I shall feel perfectly satisfied, if you please to intrust her to her care, provided we may all continue to see her, whenever we wish it.”

“Now, Arthur, you speak like a sensible boy, and you may rest assured, that if I do part with dear little Jessie, it shall be perfectly understood that she never is to be placed in the rank of a servant. The advantage of a good education weighs more with me than even the provision which the laird so liberally offers for her, in case of his death; for, among so many boys, it would be hard if they could not manage to support their sister; but if she is not educated when young, she never could retrieve the lost time; and, as you say, Arthur, that you are to be an officer, and I intend Allen shall be a clergyman, I should wish Jessie to be at least enabled to bear her part in the society her brothers mean to live in. My wife is a very good plain woman, and would, perhaps, teach her to behave better than the common run of peasant girls, from her having lived in gentlemen’s families and seen how ladies ought to conduct themselves; but yet it is not in her power or mine to give Jessie the manners of a lady; and, therefore, I am inclined to agree to the laird’s proposal, so far as to allow her to go to Glenlyn for a twelvemonth; during which time, I shall be pretty well able to judge whether my child is as well attended to, in her morals and religious duties, as I approve of.”

“Father,” answered Arthur, thoughtfully, “did the laird fix on Jessie, in preference to Annie, or did he leave it to you to choose between them?”

“He left it, my dear, entirely to myself; of course I had but one choice to make. Annie is much better with her mother; she has no want of more education than we can, ourselves, give her.”

Arthur’s lips trembled—“What a burthen and a hindrance have we been to you?” “Quite the contrary, my dear. You are all as dear to me as if you were my own children, and I shall feel as proud in seeing you advance in the world, as though you really were so. The only uneasiness you ever can give me, is by being idle or wicked. Make your mind easy with regard to Annie, for I assure you, upon my word, that even had there been no Jessie in the way, I would have refused the laird’s offer for her at once, as I never could consent to place her in a different rank of life from all connected with her.’

“You never shall have uneasiness from my being either wicked or idle; but I must be a soldier, if possible; and if you will only trust me, my dear father, I will manage to educate myself, so as to fit me for the line I have chosen, without costing you a halfpenny. If Allen wishes to be a clergyman, let him have the benefit of Linton school; and if you would allow Jamie to take my place there, and at least gain as much instruction as would be of use to him in fitting him for a companion and brother to us, in whatever rank we fill, it would greatly relieve my mind; for I cannot bear to think that you bestow more upon us than upon your only son.”

William combated this plan very stoutly, and tried all he could to get Arthur to consent to go to school. It was all in vain, and at last he was forced to compromise the matter by agreeing to wait a year longer; at the end of which time, Arthur said, if he had not made the progress he expected, by his own exertions, he would submit to his father’s wishes; and as both Jamie and Allen were yet rather young for walking so far as Linton every day, it was determined that they should remain, for the year, at home, receiving instructions from their father and brother as usual.

Arthur left his father greatly relieved by having come to this understanding with him. He hurried forward to John Gibson, more intent than ever on making a little money, in order to be able to supply himself with books, by the time he should be ready .for them.

Jane was much more rejoiced than either her husband or Arthur had been, when she was informed of the laird’s offer for Jessie. She absolutely wept for joy, to find that her dear child would now be brought up as the daughter of her beloved mistress ought to be; and, to the honour of her kind and affectionate heart, she never once thought of the advantages for her own daughter, which she was sacrificing in favour of the little orphan.

“Now, dear William,” exclaimed she, “I see that the hand of Providence watches over these helpless infants, and will enable us to do far better for them than I ever could believe. Many a weary night have I spent, in thinking how they ever could be reared as they ought to be. Jamie and Annie never troubled me at all. They will do very well, without any more teaching than your own; but my dear mistress’s children—it broke my heart to think they should be without the means of education, and Jessie would suffer most of all; for the boys could go to school, but she could never learn anything that a lady ought to know, living with us in a house like this.”

“My dear wife, it is all very well that the lady has agreed to take Jessie; but even if the dear child were to remain with us, though she would not, perhaps, learn to be as prettily behaved, and as clever in many ways, as ladies are, she yet would learn, both by example and precept, the best of all lessons and habits—a firm reliance on the truth and justice of God Almighty, and that meek and gentle spirit, which ought, in all ranks, to belong to the character of a true and faithful Christian.”

“Ah, dear William, yours is, indeed, the true Christian temper, for let what will happen, you never repine, and only strive the more to do your duty faithfully, both to God and your fellow men.”

William kissed his wife, and, laughing, told her he was too old to believe in flattery; he then finished his meal, and heard the children their lessons, before he left them for his evening’s walk, as he had promised to meet the laird at Lochmore, that day, after he had dined, in order to inspect the house and premises, to judge how much money would be requisite to put the farm in proper repair.

Colonel Beaumont, during this afternoon, was more and more surprised with the acuteness and strong good sense that William shewed in his remarks and conversation with regard to the farm, and became, if possible, more satisfied than ever with the prospect of having him for his tenant. When they had finished their business, William said, that if the Colonel did not want him any more at that time, he ’wished to call upon Mr. Brown, to thank him for his kindness in recommending him to his new master. The Colonel shook hands with him at parting, and said, that he had little doubt that he should have to thank Mr. Brown himself, for giving him a tenant so every way answering the description of the one he wanted for Lochmore.

William then directed his steps towards the house, where he found Mr. Brown, walking in his garden. After thanking him for the great obligation he felt hin^elf under for the service he had so kindly rendered him, he continued—

“I have, likewise, sir, another favour to ask of you, which your kindness has emboldened me to propose, and which I have very much at heart that you should grant. It is simply to afford me the benefit of your advice on the agreement I wish to make with the laird concerning my little girl, Jessie.

He has offered most kindly to take her into his family, and bring her up as a companion to his lady, and, if I agree to this, will settle five hundred pounds upon her, in case of his death; and this money is to be placed in the hands of any respectable person I may choose to act as her guardian. I am a poor man, and know no one that I can apply to, who would faithfully discharge this trust: yet I feel, that in justice to my child, it ought to be done before she is placed in a different situation from the rest of my family. Will you, sir, undertake the office, and act towards her as a true friend?”

Mr. Brown hesitated a moment: at length he answered, that he would accept this trust, if he particularly wished it. “I think,” said he, “William, that you are perfectly right in having everything of that kind settled before you give up your child; and since you have asked me to become her guardian, I will accept the trust you are so willing to repose in me: while I live, I shall watch over her interest as faithfully as I would that of my own child. Your conduct, as well as that of your wife, has been most exemplary, ever since you have been in my parish; and I have no hesitation in saying, that I think if Mr£ Beaumont really intended to adopt a child, she could not have chosen any one that is more likely to turn out a blessing to her, and a comfort to all that belong to her.”

At William’s desire they then retired to the house, where Mr. Brown drew up an agreement between Colonel Beaumont and himself, containing the terms on which he was willing to part with the child, in which he inserted a power removing her at the end of the first twelve months, in case he should, < luring that time, find anything he did not approve of in the principles or habits in which she was reared; in which case, he resigned all claim upon the Colonel for the sum that she became entitled to, if she continued to reside in his family. They then parted, Mr. Brown promising to meet William at Glenlyn on the following Monday, the day fixed for his giving the laird his final answer.

Nothing particular occurred till that evening, when William repaired to his master, and stated the terms on which he was willing to give up the child, which terms were readily agreed to by both Colonel and Mrs. Beaumont; and the agreement, signed by both parties, was placed in Mr. Brown’s hands, as guardian, in future, to the little Jessie. When all was finished, William said—

“I scarcely know, ma’am, how my poor little girl will like the change at first. I have never hinted to any of them, but Arthur, what was intended us, till everything was settled; I thought it better that they should know nothing about it; but my wife and I will talk to her to-night, and to-morrow I will bring her to Glenlyn in the evening. You must not mind her being strange at first, and, perhaps, poor little soul, fretting after her mother and Annie. It is natural that she should love them dearly, and you must not think the worse of her for it.”

“No, indeed, William, I shall think all the better of her, for loving her natural connexions; and you may all rest assured She shall never be induced by me to lessen either the respect or love she now feels for you.”

When William came home, he found his wife sitting at the door of the cottage, spinning, and the two little girls busily engaged at her feet, platting a crown of rushes, which, they told their father, laughing* was for their mother, who had promised to wear it the next day, which was Annie’s birthday.

“I did not recollect that,” answered he, gravely; “I must go back to Glenlyn, and delay what I intended till Wednesday. I have not the heart to divide the two dear creatures on that day.”

“Oh! not to-morrow, William, surely not so soon as to-morrow?” cried Jane, bursting into tears. “I cannot part with her yet, and of all days in the year, not to-morrow.”

“Well, well, Jane, it shall not be to-mor-row, but 1 believe it must be Wednesday; now that it is all settled, the sooner it is over the better for us all. I really do not like to think of it myself, and therefore there is no great wonder that you, her mother, should feel unhappy; but we both know that we have decided, as we think, in the way that is most likely to be for her advantage; therefore we must try to bear the parting as well as we can, comforting ourselves with the certainty that she is not far from us, and may see us every day.”

Jane’s cheerfulness, however, was gone for that night. The certainty of parting from the little creature she had nursed from infancy with such care, now that the time was come, quite overcame her; and, in spite of all the advantages she was satisfied were likely to arise from her residence at Grlenlyn, the mother’s feelings predominated, and her tears fell fast from her eyes during the whole evening, though she endeavoured to conceal them from the children, and succeeded pretty well, excepting from Arthur, who, knowing where his father had been, immediately understood what was affecting his mother, As she went towards the dresser, for some spoons for supper, he glided softly up to her, and, putting his arms round her neck, whispered, “Don’t fret, dear mother, sister Jessie will never forget any of us,- and will grow up to be a blessing to you and father in your old age.”

Jane’s heart was too full to speak, but she strained him to her breast, and wept upon his shoulder till her husband’s voice recalled her to herself, by cheerfully asking if Arthur had promised not to be a soldier, that she was kissing him so tenderly.

“Oh! that he would do that,” answered Jane, “then I think I could bear other troubles far easier.”

William rose early in the morning and went to Glenlyn before his work-hour. The Colonel perfectly entered into the propriety of his delaying the separation of the children on Annie’s birthday, and willingly agreed to wait till Wednesday for Jessie, making him promise to bring Annie with her sister when she came on that day.

The birthday passed in great delight with the children. June’s pudding, made with Jessie’s eggs, was most excellent, and all was peace and harmony among them till the evening, when William called Jessie to him, and informed her that she was going to be the lady of Glenlyn’s little girl, and live at the house for the future.

Jessie listened to her father, and then said, looking up into his face, u And does Annie go there too?”

“No, my dear, it is only you that are to live there; but you will see Annie and us all as often as you please, if you are a good girl.”

"I won’t leave Annie, father. What could I do without Annie? I should have nobody at the house to love me at all.”

“O yes, my dear, the lady will love you very much, if you are good, and do what she desires you.”

“Ah! father, that is the very thing; for I often am not good, and don’t do what I am desired; yet both Annie and mother always love me, and try to make me better; but tne lady will care nothing for me, unless I am always good, and that I am quite sure I can never be. And what would become of me, if I had no one to love or care for me ? No, no, you must not send me away; or, at least, you must send Annie with me if you do, for cannot go without her.”

All William’s, and even Jane’s arguments, were in vain. Nothing could reconcile Jessie to parting from her sister. She did not cry, as most children in similar circumstances would have done; but she steadily maintained that nothing could make her live separated from Annie, and that, unless the lady would take her likewise, she would not go to Glenlyn.

Poor Annie, who was the most affectionate little creature in the world, though a very different child from Jessie, wept incessantly from the moment her father mentioned that her sister was to leave her. And though Jessie tried all in her power to comfort her, she had cried herself almost into fits, when her mother undressed her and put her to bed, in the hope that she would forget her sorrows, and go to sleep. Jessie soothed her in her arms for some time, and at last found that she had really fallen asleep.

“What can this lady want with me?” thought Jessie. “I am sure I won’t vex Annie in this way to please her, nor leave her either. But father says I must go to Glenlyn, and I dare not disobey him, I know that, if he commands me; but I know what I can do. I will just tell the lady that, if she wishes me to be good, and mind what she says, she must bring Annie to be with me, and then I will love her dearly, and never vex her as long as I live.”

Pleasing herself with the hopes that the lady must be convinced by such arguments, the affectionate little creature fell asleep, and next morning, greatly to William’s and Jane’s surprise, she made no opposition to being dressed to go with her father. Annie’s agony, however, was unabated, and William thought it best to say nothing about the invitation she had received to accompany her sister the first day.

About seven in the evening, William announced that it was time for Jessie to go with him. Jane hastily caught her in her arms, and, after kissing her, put her into her husband’s, saying, hurriedly, u Here, here, take her away at once, or I shall never be able to keep my resolution.” Jessie looked very pale; but, though a tear now and then might be seen stealing down her cheek, she yet refrained from absolutely crying. After kissing her mother, she allowed William to take her; but, raising her head from his shoulder, as he was leaving the house, she saw Annie struggling with her mother to get leave to run after her.

“Put me down, dear father, for one minute, and I will come back to you directly. I cannot go till I have said one word to Annie. She would not leave me crying in that way for all the ladies in the land.”

“No, no,” answered her father, “you will do no good; let us go away at once, and she will then listen to her mother’s comfort.”

“I will not go, then, father, at all,” cried Jessie, struggling violently, “if you won’t let me speak to Annie. I promise, if you will only let me speak one word, I will come to you again directly.”

William, who had been surprised with her going so willingly before, would much rather not have put her down; but, as he thought it was likely that she would cry and scream, if he did not yield, and so allow Mrs. Beaumont to see how unwillingly she came to her, he did as she wished, telling her he could not wait a minute.

She ran to Annie, and, putting her arms round her neck, drew her to the other end of the cottage, and, whispering to her for a few minutes, left her, and joined her father, who hurried her directly out of the cottage, without allowing her to look again behind her.

Annie’s tears dried up in a minute; she drew towards her mother, and, leaning her little head on her shoulder, wiped away the tears that were running down Jane’s face, saying, “Dear mother, I will never leave you, and Jessie will be sure to come back and see us every day as long as she stays with the lady.”

“So she will, Annie; arid we must try to love one another, more and more, now that we are left together.”

"Yes, mother; but we must not forget Jessie, for she will never forget us, I am sure of that.”

In the hope of amusing both herself and Annie, Jane proposed that they should go and see Janet Finley, a poor girl, who lived near them, who was very ill, in a deep decline, and who had always been very kind to Annie, and often got her to come and read the Bible to her, when she was too ill to do it herself.

Jessie, meantime, after shedding a few tears on her father’s neck, began to raise her head, and answer him when he spoke to her, more composedly than he had hoped; her serenity was, however, nearly lost, when, in turning into the glen, she met her brother Arthur, who had purposely watched to see her before she got to Glenlyn. She was excessively fond of him, and, next to him, Annie was the one she most loved in the cottage. Arthur himself was not very composed; the idea of his sister going to be educated and brought up as a lady, gratified his pride and ambition excessively; but then to part from her was a severe struggle. “I have only Allen now,” thought he, “who at all belongs to me; and, though my dear father and mother, as well as Jamie and Annie, love me dearly, yet I know that I am not related to any of them, and some how 1 seem now to love Jessie better than I ever did, and feel more unhappy at parting from her, than I could have believed possible.”

Jessie held out her arms to him the moment she saw him, and he snatched her to his breast, and kissed her again and again without speaking.

“Come, Arthur, we are very late, be a good boy, and leave us: you shall see Jessie again in a few days.”

Jessie clung still to her brother; but he, ashamed that his father should see his tears, unclasped her hold from his neck, and, putting her again in William’s arms, darted into the wood, without speaking a word. It required a little time to bring Jessie back to her former composure; but, by speaking cheerfully to her, and telling her about au the pretty things she would see at Glenlyn, William accomplished it before they had quite reached the house; and, when they were shewn into the drawing-room, she had again recovered a steady, quiet appearance, which induced him to hope that the interview between her and her new friends would pass off better than he had expected.

Mrs. Beaumont, who had been waiting anxiously for her, rose on their coming into the room. William advanced towards her, and, placing the child’s hand in hers, said, “There, madam, is my child; I intrust her to four care, fully believing that, in doing so, I am acting in the best possible manner for promoting her welfare, both in this life and in that which is to come. May God so prosper you and yours as you do your duty to this poor infant.”

Mrs. Beaumont, greatly affected, solemnly pronounced “Amen,” and for a moment was evidently engaged in silent prayer. At last, she said, “William, I feel at this instant more fully the duties I have taken upon myself, by adopting this dear little girl, than I ever before did; yet, believe me, I do not shrink from the performance of them ; find, if ever you should, at a future time, perceive any failure on my part, in the watchfulness and tenderness you have a right to expect me to shew towards her, I give you free leave to remind me of this moment, which must recall instantly recollections which are much too powerful to be slighted, and vows which no Christian would ever dare to break.”

“Enough, madam; I am satisfied,” answered William, as he took the chair that the Colonel placed for him; “I have now no fear for the welfare of my child. You will, however, I hope, trust her now and then with her mother and sister, who have suffered much on parting from her, and who are now in great affliction.”

“Undoubtedly, my friend,” answered Mrs. Beaumont; “I can have no reason for wishing to deprive you, or any of your family, of constant intercourse with my little girl. But Jessie, dear, will you love me, and mind my instructions as much as you have ever done your mother’s?”

“I will try, ma’am,” answered the child, “to be very good indeed, if you will let Annie come here, too; but I cannot be happy, nor good either, if my own dear sister is not with me; and, oh! how much I shall love you, if you will do that; I will never be naughty as .long as I live, if she is with me.

“We will talk about that to-morrow, my dear; at present, here is a nice piece of cake for you, and another for your father to carry home to Annie, from you, and he may tell her that we shall both come to visit her tomorrow, when we take our morning’s walk.”

Jessie looked pleased as her father took the cake, wrapped up in a nice piece of paper, and put it into his pocket. She sate silent, holding her own cake in her hand, which Mrs. Beaumont observing, asked her if she did not like the cake!

“Yes, ma’am, very much, but I should like better to send it to my brothers, if you would not be angry.” “Not in the least, my love; here, give it me, and I will wrap it up, and your father can put it in his other pocket.”

This was immediately done, and Mrs. Beaumont then gave her another piece for herself, saying she was a good child to think of her brothers.

William now rose to take leave, but, the moment he moved, Jessie’s cake fell to the ground, and she sprung forward, calling, “Take me, take me, father; ohl do not leave me here.”

He tried, by soothing, and promising to come and see her next day, to quiet her; but she still grasped his hand, and, looking up in his face, with such an expression of woe in her little countenance as went to his heart, said, “You surely don’t love me, father, or you would not give me away to any lady.”

This was too much for poor William; he strained her to his breast, while the tears ran down his cheeks; and it might have been doubtful whether he would have had courage to persevere in leaving her, had not the Colonel come to his assistance, and, gently lifting Jessie in his arms, said—

“My dear, I am afraid you do not love your father, or you would not distress him so much as you are doing; only see, you have made him cry.”

“My father cry!” exclaimed Jessie; “I never saw him cry in all my life. I will do anything you like, to make him happy again.”

“Then go up to him and kiss him, and tell him you will be a good girl till you see him again to-morrow night.”

“I will,” answered Jessie, sighing deeply, “since he will leave me; but it is very hard to bear.”

“And that is true, my own dear girl,” said ; “but I hope it is for the best.”

He bowed slightly as he put the child down, and ran out of the room; for, at the moment, he dreaded to hear another word, lest his resolution should give way, and he should take the child home with him. He instantly quitted the house, and never stopped till he arrived at his own cottage, where h«, endeavoured, by prayer, to compose both his own mind and that of his wife.

Jessie tried to keep her word in being a good girl, but the tears would start, and the heavy sights that escaped from her, convinced both the Colonel and Mrs. Beaumont that she was truly unhappy. They tried, at first, to amuse her, but, finding all their efforts in vain, Mrs. Beaumont asked her if she would go to bed. “As you please, ma’am,” was her answer, as she rose from her seat; but a fresh gush of tears prevented her from saying more, and she drew back, as if afraid.

“Come, my love, don’t be afraid: you are to sleep in a nice little bed of your own, in my dressing-room; and, if you want me, you have only to speak to me, and I will come to you in a minute.”

Jessie held out her hand, and walked away with her friend. She suffered her to undress her, and put her into bed, but she wept so much that it was several hours before Mrs. Beaumont could leave her. At last, she had the satisfaction of seeing her fall into a quiet sleep, and, leaving the housekeeper to watch her, she returned to her husband.

The next morning it rained so violently that it was quite impossible to go to the village. Jessie bore her disappointment better than could have been expected. She read to Mrs. Beaumont, who told her that she was always, in future, to call her aunt, and the Colonel, uncle, as she was now their little niece. A week passed before the weather would admit of her going to see her mother, and, during the whole of that time, though she was obedient, and evidently pleased with the instructions bestowed on her, yet she never regained her cheerfulness, but, the moment she was left to herself, retired into a corner, and Mrs. Beaumont could see that she kept wiping her eyes, and sighing so deeply as made her truly unhappy.

One day, when sitting together, after she was gone to bed, the Colonel said, “My love, this won’t do; to go on, we must contrive some way to gain Jessie’s affections, and it strikes me that the best thing we can do, is to ask William to allow Annie to come here for an hour or two every morning; at least for a little while, till Jessie is more reconciled to her change of situation. The dear little creature will fret herself sick, if some means are not found to interest and please her.”

“That is the very thing I have been thinking of,” answered Mrs. Beaumont; “I have little doubt that, if Annie were to come for a few hours every day, we should all go on, ever after, extremely well.”

“Very well, my dear, I will go up to William to-morrow morning, and make the proposal. 1 have had a note from him, saying.

that he had kept away on purpose, as he thought Jessie would do better not to see any of her family for a little while. But she is not of a temper to forget her friends in that way, and, if I mistake not, the other plan will answer much better.”

The result of this conversation was, that William agreed to allow Annie to go to Glenlyn immediately after breakfast, and remain for a couple of hours, every day, and to share in the instructions bestowed upon Jessie. The benefit of this arrangement soon became apparent upon both children. Jessie recovered her health and spirits completely, and Annie so far overcame her natural timidity as to feel not only easy at Glenlyn, but delighted when the hour of her visit came round; though she privately told her mother, that she was very glad that the lady liked to keep Jessie best, for she was sure she never could talk* and laugh with the laird as her sister did.

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