|| || It took a few days to organise, with Simon and his retinue, including Archie, then setting off to take passage on a small ship to Edinburgh, and thence to London.
On the way to Inverness, they stopped for a meeting with the Clan gentlemen at Bunchrew, on the southern shore of Beauly Firth, to discuss strategies for the future and the expectations from the visit to London. Archie was not part of the proceedings and went off on his own. He sat on the shoreline and saw a vast expanse of mud, with some lumps of seaweed. He had read about tidal waves as described by Greek historian Herodotus, in the Théreau library in Saumur; about how the water first receded leaving the seabed bare, with fish flapping helplessly; the vast wave to then come sweeping in, causing destruction and death.
The thought was terrifying and he ran to the house. There was a group of young men socialising around the back door, and he excitedly tried to explain in his mixture of English, Gaelic and French that they should all run for the hills. The young men were primarily gaelic speakers and had difficulty in understanding what Archie was saying. Eventually one of them caught on and explained that it was just the tide, happening twice every day, and that the full moon made the tidal movement even greater. The young men looked at each other with raised eyebrows, amazed at this strange boy who did not know about tides, and returned to their socialising.
Archie, feeling deeply humiliated, returned to the shore line and watched the tide come racing in over the flats; no wave, just an advancing edge of water. He took a deep breath, accepting a little more that he had never been a highlander, only in his dreams, and that he was an alien in the land of his forefathers. ‘Je survivrai.’
They had quick but rough passage from Inverness to Edinburgh, helped by a stiff nor’wester. Archie found again that he enjoyed the rough and tumble of the sea and wind, allowing him to momentarily leave his troubles behind. Simon was seasick and miserable, while Archie stood on deck balancing with the motion of the ship. The skipper noticed how well Archie was handling the conditions and jokingly offered him a position on the crew.
They spent a few days in Edinburgh as Simon attempted to remake some old contacts. He had an uncertain reception and it was clear that his situation needed to be clarified by the visit to London.
This voyage was much pleasanter with a gentle nor’easter and Simon gathered his strength for the political tasks ahead. He was successful, first in getting a Royal pardon setting aside the Athol indictments, and secondly in being granted the rights to the Lovat Estates. His claim to the title of Lord Lovat was challenged, until finally settled many years later.
All of this, including his now being a de facto peer, required frequent visits to London, so he set up a residence not too far from Whitehall, at least in part as a place for Archie to live. He employed a housekeeper, a Fraser widow with two small children, with Archie being the only other servant except when Simon was in town with his retinue.
Archie tried to fit into London life, finding a tutor to help continue his education. He was particularly interested in arithmetic and mathematics, finding solace in the precision of numbers. He looked for an apprentice position with a merchant so that the could learn the arts of commerce, but his strange background as a highlander with a French accent made this difficult. The French were deeply distrusted in England, after generations of warfare between the two nations.
On one of Simon’s visits, after Archie had been in London for nearly two years, Simon became very ill and in his delirium thought that he was dying, so felt the need to write an emotional letter to the Clan, but, finding himself incapable of holding the pen, asked Archie to take dictation. The delirium made this difficult as Simon kept losing track of what he was trying to say, but Archie persevered, making notes and then preparing a final draft for approval. Simon approved the draft and managed to append his signature, but then asked Archie to add a postscript saying that the letter had been dictated to “the little French boy who is my servant”. The letter was sealed and sent to Beaufort.
The next day the fever broke, and Simon recovered over the following week to being close to his normal self. Archie approached him and said,
‘I found it difficult to write that I was your servant.’ Simon was confused as his memory of the time of delirium was not clear, so Archie explained and showed him his copy of the letter.
‘But I have never treated you like a servant, have I?’
‘Non, mon père, you have not, but everybody else does.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘In the eyes of the world I am your servant, not your son. If I am to be myself, I think that I need to live my own life.’
Simon looked closely at his son and saw the depth of his distress, asking him what he would like to do.
‘I have not been able to fit in with Londoners, I am too different. I have tried to find opportunity here, but my French accent counts against me and I have no family to vouch for me. I am not permitted to go to Scotland. I have spent most of my life in France, but even there I am a foreigner. There is nowhere that I feel that I belong.’
He paused and looked at his father, seeing the concern in his eyes, but knowing that there was no easy answer. Simon, after all, was newly married with a pregnant wife, sensibly hoping for a son that could be a legitimate heir.
‘I would like to go back to Saumur and see if I can find a life there.’
Their eyes met in mutual regard and affection. They had survived many years together in difficult places, but there was no escaping the present situation.
‘I am deeply sorry that things have not worked out better for you,’ said Simon, ‘But I cannot see any way of making it different. You will always be my son to me and I will support you as best I can. What do you plan to do in Saumur.’
‘I am not sure, but I would first like to see Professor Joseph again and study more. I thought to be a soldier, but cannot see how to do that in France or England. Perhaps I will exercise my mathematics to learn accountancy and become useful in the world of commerce.’
Simon sat in thought, then, ‘I will get Stuart to travel with you and help you get established, and provide you with enough money, and then I will arrange a small income for as long as necessary. I wish that I could do more. Your situation is not your fault, but it is at least partly mine.’
He pondered further, ‘I will give you a letter to Professor Joseph expressing my support and asking him to assist in your future. I will also write to the Marquise de la Frézelière to tell her of your plans and ask her to keep an eye on you. You remember that their country residence is near Saumur. It is a pity that the Marquis is no longer with us as I expect that he would have been actively supportive.’
A few days later he saw them onto a small ship to cross the Channel, with tears in his eyes as he might never see his son again, having raised him from infancy. A determined fifteen-year-old setting out to make his way as best he may, but still a boy, not yet a man. As the ship was pushed away from the dock into the Thames’ run-out tide, Archie was standing at the bow, tall and straight, again reminding Simon of the mother, that horrible old woman.
On the other hand, Simon was relieved that Archie was going to be far away. There are few secrets in a clan, and there were those who still viewed Archie as his rightful heir, holding that his first marriage was valid, and willing to use this story as a way to diminish his chieftainship.