Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
I’an being reluctant to leave his sister all alone with her sorrow, procured a good seaman to command the Mur for her next run. Fears were entertained that Beaton's mind might become permanently deranged from excessive grief. She could seldom be induced to leave the room in which her lover died, and I’an, feeling a repugnance to sleep there, she took it for a bedroom, saying she intended to keep it because that apartment, with two or three others adjoining it, were bequeathed to her (as
indeed they were, with their furniture), for her life-time. For many days together she was never seen except by the aged servant, who, at the usual meal-times, took to the gloomy chamber food that was often removed untasted. Her spinning-wheel was thrown aside; yet she seemed occupied in some quiet mysterious way; and I’an, getting alarmed for the probable result of her sad seclusion, consulted a doctor, who, being an old friend of the family, came to visit Beaton without delay, and requested to be taken to her room without being announced. I’an entered, followed by the doctor, and saw Beaton in a window—recess, busily sewing; at the same time, so absorbed was she in singing a baby's lullaby and rocking a cradle—in which there was no child, but a christening-dress with other articles of her, infantile wardrobe—that she did not perceive her visitors. They noted, too, that the bed was covered with old dresses, in various beautiful fabrics, and that Beaton had been cutting them up, seemingly to waste. I’an annoyed to see this destruction of gay and costly gowns, said, "Sister dear, art thou going crazy to be cutting up thy best clothes?" "No, John," she replied, without looking up from her work; "yet methinks you are very rude thus to enter a lady's bedchamber with so little ceremony. But men understand so little of women's hearts," she continued, as if speaking to herself and taking no further notice of her brother; "little do they know that, when damsels don their gayest robes, they long for the time when they may cut them up for their babies' clothes. But is it to-morrow that is to be my wedding-day?" demanded she. "Oh, dear Willy, where art thou? Do tell me. It was to have been some time before brother John came back. The banns called thrice, we are to be wedded before he returns; then he will love my Willy like he used to, and all will be right well."
Unconscious, seeming, of any presence save what her crazed fancy imaged, she looked towards her brother and the doctor, who now advanced and noticed there was no intelligence in her fixed gaze. She appeared to be looking within rather than at anything external, when she went on to say, "Our child, if a boy, shall be named William, after you, my love; but if a girl, it shall never be called Beatrice for me, I have often been told that the name, though a favourite one, has always been ill-starred in our family. Shall we call her Mary for your mother, or Agnes for mine? Any names of those we love sound sweet, like a dear mother's. That I remember, and how she rocked me singing, Lullaby, lullaby, littly maid Beatrice; angels protect thee, my darling."
I’an, cut to the heart to see her thus, took her hand and said, "Sister; you are ill, dear, and our good friend, the doctor, is come a
to visit you." "Oh, how foolish people are," she replied, "I was never better in my life, yet our old Betty will have it that I don't eat enough, what next I wonder? I am glad, however, he is come to visit us; our house seems lonely now, and he is a dear man—so kind, true, and hearty, I always liked him from a child, and how he enjoys his pipe and glass, dear man! I'll leave my work now, and see that he be entertained with the best our house will afford."
Beaton folded her work, rose, passed near their friend without recognition, and descended to the kitchen, where she gave orders for a sumptuous repast, though there was nothing in her house to furnish it. She then returned to her work, saying that it would be time enough to dress for dinner in an hour or more, meanwhile her brother would entertain their guest, and the doctor would excuse her; for indeed she was very busy. Then she wailed, rather than sung,
The doctor, perceiving her pitiably distracted state, advised I’an to remove her to a change of scene—far away if he could and trust to an occurrence that might soon take place to do more to restore her reason than anything in his power. "Nature," he observed, "beats all doctors, and maternal instinct supplies the place of reason, now happily dormant for the assuagement of her in heart, poor dove." The bleeding servant, being called and questioned, she confirmed what the doctor surmised, and further informed him that she was aware of the intention of William and Beaton to be married during her master's absence, trusting to have his forgiveness, when all was done; then possible to make amends for the thoughtlessness of youth and love.
The doctor's advice tallied with I’an's inclination. He had often thought, and at length determined, to leave the wreck of his property for his creditors, as it was deeply mortgaged, and the accumulated interest of many years unpaid. He would seek a home for himself and his sister in Brittany, where he had formed acquaintances, and where no fancied requirements of sham gentility and beggarly state would impede his endeavours to push his fortune by land or sea. Being assured that a trip across the Channel was likely to prove beneficial to Beaton, who had often been to sea and enjoyed life on the waves like the sea-bird after which the smuggler's craft was named; wearing apparel, bedding, and a few heirlooms, of no great value, were soon packed so that they might be ready to leave when the Mur next
made sail for France. Their moveable furniture was placed in Beaton's portion of the house, where two old servants were installed to keep possession for her of that, and also of some Arden ground and pasture land in which she had a life interest. It was feared there might be some difficulty in persuading the poor demented woman to embark yet, when he vessel was ready, by a harmless deception she was led to connect the proposed voyage, somehow, with going to meet her lover and hastening her bridal. So, one day, about a month after Willy laid hastening the turf, I’an had a stone placed to mark the spot, and—following a very ancient custom in St. Levan—planted rosemary, box, lillies, and other garden flowers on the grave, over which he and his crew shed many tears. The following night I’an, with his sister, bade farewell to the ancient home of their forefathers, now rendered doubly sad to him by the remembrance of Taskes's ill-fated death, and his sister's melancholy plight.
Little more was then heard of either brother or sister. Penberth men, belonging to I’an's crew, purchased his share of -their vessel, and before they left port, Beaton was lodged at a farm house, where she was kindly nursed; and it was hoped that, ere long, maternal cares might tend to restore her reason and somewhat relieve her anguish for her lover's untimely death. I’an was well known at the port, where they had long traded, as an expert seaman and good navigator, and he soon obtained the command of a ship. For a long while the old servants lived in Becton's part of the house, hoping for her return, and cultivated the small quantity of ground that belonged to her. But no tidings ever reached them of either sister or brother; and when the two old servants died—it being supposed that their mistress was also dead, and her portion fallen in hand—I’an's creditors took possession of it.