Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XI

The Banquet

The entertainment was ample and handsome, according to the Scotch ideas of the period, and the guests did great honour to it. The Baron eat like a famished soldier, the Laird of Balmawhapple like a sportsman, Bullsegg of Killancureit like a farmer, Waverley himself like a traveller, and Bailie Macwheeble like all four together; though, either out of more respect, or in order to preserve that proper declination of person which showed a sense that he was in the presence of his patron, he sat upon the edge of his chair, placed at three feet distance from the table, and achieved a communication with his plate by projecting his person towards it in a line which obliqued from the bottom of his spine, so that the person who sat opposite to him could only see the foretop of his riding periwig.

This stooping position might have been inconvenient to another person; but long habit made it, whether seated or walking, perfectly easy to the worthy Bailie. In the latter posture it occasioned, no doubt, an unseemly projection of the person towards those who happened to walk behind; but those being at all times his inferiors (for Mr. Macwheeble was very scrupulous in giving place to all others), he cared very little what inference of contempt or slight regard they might derive from the circumstance. Hence, when he waddled across the court to and from his old grey pony, he somewhat resembled a turnspit walking upon its hind legs.

The nonjuring clergyman was a pensive and interesting old man, with much of the air of a sufferer for conscience’ sake. He was one of those

Who, undeprived, their benefice forsook.

For this whim, when the Baron was out of hearing, the Bailie used sometimes gently to rally Mr. Rubrick, upbraiding him with the nicety of his scruples. Indeed, it must be owned, that he himself, though at heart a keen partisan of the exiled family, had kept pretty fair with all the different turns of state in his time; so that Davie Gellatley once described him as a particularly good man, who had a very quiet and peaceful conscience, THAT NEVER DID HIM ANY HARM.

When the dinner was removed, the Baron announced the health of the King, politely leaving to the consciences of his guests to drink to the sovereign de facto or de jure, as their politics inclined. The conversation now became general; and, shortly afterwards, Miss Bradwardine, who had done the honours with natural grace and simplicity, retired, and was soon followed by the clergyman. Among the rest of the party, the wine, which fully justified the encomiums of the landlord, flowed freely round, although Waverley, with some difficulty, obtained the privilege of sometimes neglecting the glass. At length, as the evening grew more late, the Baron made a private signal to Mr. Saunders Saunderson, or, as he facetiously denominated him, Alexander ab Alexandro, who left the room with a nod, and soon after returned, his grave countenance mantling with a solemn and mysterious smile, and placed before his master a small oaken casket, mounted with brass ornaments of curious form. The Baron, drawing out a private key, unlocked the casket, raised the lid, and produced a golden goblet of a singular and antique appearance, moulded into the shape of a rampant bear, which the owner regarded with a look of mingled reverence, pride, and delight, that irresistibly reminded Waverley of Ben Jonson’s Tom Otter, with his Bull, Horse, and Dog, as that wag wittily denominated his chief carousing cups. But Mr. Bradwardine, turning towards him with complacency, requested him to observe this curious relic of the olden time.

‘It represents,’ he said, ‘the chosen crest of our family, a bear, as ye observe, and RAMPANT; because a good herald will depict every animal in its noblest posture, as a horse SALIENT, a greyhound CURRANT, and, as may be inferred, a ravenous animal in actu ferociori, or in a voracious, lacerating, and devouring posture. Now, sir, we hold this most honourable achievement by the wappen-brief, or concession of arms, of Frederick Red-beard, Emperor of Germany, to my predecessor, Godmund Bradwardine, it being the crest of a gigantic Dane, whom he slew in the lists in the Holy Land, on a quarrel touching the chastity of the emperor’s spouse or daughter, tradition saith not precisely which, and thus, as Virgilius hath it —

Mutemus clypeos,

Danaumque insignia nobis

Aptemus.

Then for the cup, Captain Waverley, it was wrought by the command of Saint Duthac, Abbot of Aberbrothock, for behoof of another baron of the house of Bradwardine, who had valiantly defended the patrimony of that monastery against certain encroaching nobles. It is properly termed the Blessed Bear of Bradwardine (though old Doctor Doubleit used jocosely to call it Ursa Major), and was supposed, in old and Catholic times, to be invested with certain properties of a mystical and supernatural quality. And though I give not in to such anilia, it is certain it has always been esteemed a solemn standard cup and heirloom of our house; nor is it ever used but upon seasons of high festival, and such I hold to be the arrival of the heir of Sir Everard under my roof; and I devote this draught to the health and prosperity of the ancient and highly-to-be-honoured house of Waverley.’

During this long harangue, he carefully decanted a cob-webbed bottle of claret into the goblet, which held nearly an English pint; and, at the conclusion, delivering the bottle to the butler, to be held carefully in the same angle with the horizon, he devoutly quaffed off the contents of the Blessed Bear of Bradwardine.

Edward, with horror and alarm, beheld the animal making his rounds, and thought with great anxiety upon the appropriate motto, ‘Beware the Bear’; but, at the same time, plainly foresaw that, as none of the guests scrupled to do him this extraordinary honour, a refusal on his part to pledge their courtesy would be extremely ill received. Resolving, therefore, to submit to this last piece of tyranny, and then to quit the table, if possible, and confiding in the strength of his constitution, he did justice to the company in the contents of the Blessed Bear, and felt less inconvenience from the draught than he could possibly have expected. The others, whose time had been more actively employed, began to show symptoms of innovation — ‘the good wine did its good office.’29 The frost of etiquette and pride of birth began to give way before the genial blessings of this benign constellation, and the formal appellatives with which the three dignitaries had hitherto addressed each other were now familiarly abbreviated into Tully, Bally, and Killie. When a few rounds had passed, the two latter, after whispering together, craved permission (a joyful hearing for Edward) to ask the grace-cup. This, after some delay, was at length produced, and Waverley concluded the orgies of Bacchus were terminated for the evening. He was never more mistaken in his life.

As the guests had left their horses at the small inn, or change- house, as it was called, of the village, the Baron could not, in politeness, avoid walking with them up the avenue, and Waverley from the same motive, and to enjoy after this feverish revel the cool summer evening, attended the party. But when they arrived at Luckie Macleary’s the Lairds of Balmawhapple and Killancureit declared their determination to acknowledge their sense of the hospitality of Tully-Veolan by partaking, with their entertainer and his guest Captain Waverley, what they technically called deoch an doruis, a stirrup-cup,30 to the honour of the Baron’s roof-tree.

It must be noticed that the Bailie, knowing by experience that the day’s jovialty, which had been hitherto sustained at the expense of his patron, might terminate partly at his own, had mounted his spavined grey pony, and, between gaiety of heart and alarm for being hooked into a reckoning, spurred him into a hobbling canter (a trot was out of the question), and had already cleared the village. The others entered the change-house, leading Edward in unresisting submission; for his landlord whispered him, that to demur to such an overture would be construed into a high misdemeanour against the leges conviviales, or regulations of genial compotation. Widow Macleary seemed to have expected this visit, as well she might, for it was the usual consummation of merry bouts, not only at Tully-Veolan, but at most other gentlemen’s houses in Scotland, Sixty Years Since. The guests thereby at once acquitted themselves of their burden of gratitude for their entertainer’s kindness, encouraged the trade of his change-house, did honour to the place which afforded harbour to their horses, and indemnified themselves for the previous restraints imposed by private hospitality, by spending what Falstaff calls the sweet of the night in the genial license of a tavern.

Accordingly, in full expectation of these distinguished guests, Luckie Macleary had swept her house for the first time this fortnight, tempered her turf-fire to such a heat as the season required in her damp hovel even at Midsummer, set forth her deal table newly washed, propped its lame foot with a fragment of turf, arranged four or five stools of huge and clumsy form upon the sites which best suited the inequalities of her clay floor; and having, moreover, put on her clean toy, rokelay, and scarlet plaid, gravely awaited the arrival of the company, in full hope of custom and profit. When they were seated under the sooty rafters of Luckie Macleary’s only apartment, thickly tapestried with cobwebs, their hostess, who had already taken her cue from the Laird of Balmawhapple, appeared with a huge pewter measuring-pot, containing at least three English quarts, familiarly denominated a Tappit Hen, and which, in the language of the hostess, reamed (i.e., mantled) with excellent claret just drawn from the cask.

It was soon plain that what crumbs of reason the Bear had not devoured were to be picked up by the Hen; but the confusion which appeared to prevail favoured Edward’s resolution to evade the gaily circling glass. The others began to talk thick and at once, each performing his own part in the conversation without the least respect to his neighbour. The Baron of Bradwardine sung French chansons-a-boire, and spouted pieces of Latin; Killancureit talked, in a steady unalterable dull key, of top-dressing and bottom-dressing,31 and year-olds, and gimmers, and dinmonts, and stots, and runts, and kyloes, and a proposed turnpike-act; while Balmawhapple, in notes exalted above both, extolled his horse, his hawks, and a greyhound called Whistler. In the middle of this din, the Baron repeatedly implored silence; and when at length the instinct of polite discipline so far prevailed that for a moment he obtained it, he hastened to beseech their attention ‘unto a military ariette, which was a particular favourite of the Marechal Duc de Berwick’; then, imitating, as well as he could, the manner and tone of a French musquetaire, he immediately commenced, —

Mon coeur volage, dit elle,

N’est pas pour vous, garcon;

Est pour un homme de guerre,

Qui a barbe au menton.

Lon, Lon, Laridon.

Qui port chapeau a plume,

Soulier a rouge talon,

Qui joue de la flute,

Aussi du violon.

Lon, Lon, Laridon.

Balmawhapple could hold no longer, but broke in with what he called a d — d good song, composed by Gibby Gaethroughwi’t, the piper of Cupar; and, without wasting more time, struck up, —

It’s up Glenbarchan’s braes I gaed,

And o’er the bent of Killiebraid,

And mony a weary cast I made,

To cuittle the moor-fowl’s tail. 32

The Baron, whose voice was drowned in the louder and more obstreperous strains of Balmawhapple, now dropped the competition, but continued to hum ‘Lon, Lon, Laridon,’ and to regard the successful candidate for the attention of the company with an eye of disdain, while Balmawhapple proceeded, —

If up a bonny black-cock should spring,

To whistle him down wi’ a slug in his wing,

And strap him on to my lunzie string,

Right seldom would I fail.

After an ineffectual attempt to recover the second verse, he sung the first over again; and, in prosecution of his triumph, declared there was ‘more sense in that than in all the derry-dongs of France, and Fifeshire to the boot of it.’ The Baron only answered with a long pinch of snuff and a glance of infinite contempt. But those noble allies, the Bear and the Hen, had emancipated the young laird from the habitual reverence in which he held Bradwardine at other times. He pronounced the claret shilpit, and demanded brandy with great vociferation. It was brought; and now the Demon of Politics envied even the harmony arising from this Dutch concert, merely because there was not a wrathful note in the strange compound of sounds which it produced. Inspired by her, the Laird of Balmawhapple, now superior to the nods and winks with which the Baron of Bradwardine, in delicacy to Edward, had hitherto checked his entering upon political discussion, demanded a bumper, with the lungs of a Stentor, ‘to the little gentleman in black velvet who did such service in 1702, and may the white horse break his neck over a mound of his making!’

Edward was not at that moment clear-headed enough to remember that King William’s fall, which occasioned his death, was said to be owing to his horse stumbling at a mole-hill; yet felt inclined to take umbrage at a toast which seemed, from the glance of Balmawhapple’s eye, to have a peculiar and uncivil reference to the Government which he served. But, ere he could interfere, the Baron of Bradwardine had taken up the quarrel. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘whatever my sentiments tanquam privatus may be in such matters, I shall not tamely endure your saying anything that may impinge upon the honourable feelings of a gentleman under my roof. Sir, if you have no respect for the laws of urbanity, do ye not respect the military oath, the sacramentum militare, by which every officer is bound to the standards under which he is enrolled? Look at Titus Livius, what he says of those Roman soldiers who were so unhappy as exuere sacramentum, to renounce their legionary oath; but you are ignorant, sir, alike of ancient history and modern courtesy.’

‘Not so ignorant as ye would pronounce me,’ roared Balmawhapple. ‘I ken weel that you mean the Solemn League and Covenant; but if a’ the Whigs in hell had taken the — ’

Here the Baron and Waverley both spoke at once, the former calling out, ‘Be silent, sir! ye not only show your ignorance, but disgrace your native country before a stranger and an Englishman’; and Waverley, at the same moment, entreating Mr. Bradwardine to permit him to reply to an affront which seemed levelled at him personally. But the Baron was exalted by wine, wrath, and scorn above all sublunary considerations.

‘I crave you to be hushed, Captain Waverley; you are elsewhere, peradventure, sui juris, — foris-familiated, that is, and entitled, it may be, to think and resent for yourself; but in my domain, in this poor Barony of Bradwardine, and under this roof, which is quasi mine, being held by tacit relocation by a tenant at will, I am in loco parentis to you, and bound to see you scathless. And for you, Mr. Falconer of Balmawhapple, I warn ye, let me see no more aberrations from the paths of good manners.’

‘And I tell you, Mr. Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine of Bradwardine and Tully-Veolan,’ retorted the sportsman in huge disdain, ‘that I’ll make a moor-cock of the man that refuses my toast, whether it be a crop-eared English Whig wi’ a black ribband at his lug, or ane wha deserts his ain friends to claw favour wi’ the rats of Hanover.’

In an instant both rapiers were brandished, and some desperate passes exchanged. Balmawhapple was young, stout, and active; but the Baron, infinitely more master of his weapon, would, like Sir Toby Belch, have tickled his opponent other gates than he did had he not been under the influence of Ursa Major.

Edward rushed forward to interfere between the combatants, but the prostrate bulk of the Laird of Killancureit, over which he stumbled, intercepted his passage. How Killancureit happened to be in this recumbent posture at so interesting a moment was never accurately known. Some thought he was about to insconce himself under the table; he himself alleged that he stumbled in the act of lifting a joint-stool, to prevent mischief, by knocking down Balmawhapple. Be that as it may, if readier aid than either his or Waverley’s had not interposed, there would certainly have been bloodshed. But the well-known clash of swords, which was no stranger to her dwelling, aroused Luckie Macleary as she sat quietly beyond the hallan, or earthen partition of the cottage, with eyes employed on Boston’s ‘Crook the Lot,’ while her ideas were engaged in summing up the reckoning. She boldly rushed in, with the shrill expostulation, ‘Wad their honours slay ane another there, and bring discredit on an honest widow-woman’s house, when there was a’ the lee-land in the country to fight upon?’ a remonstrance which she seconded by flinging her plaid with great dexterity over the weapons of the combatants. The servants by this time rushed in, and being, by great chance, tolerably sober, separated the incensed opponents, with the assistance of Edward and Killancureit. The latter led off Balmawhapple, cursing, swearing, and vowing revenge against every Whig, Presbyterian, and fanatic in England and Scotland, from John-o’-Groat’s to the Land’s End, and with difficulty got him to horse. Our hero, with the assistance of Saunders Saunderson, escorted the Baron of Bradwardine to his own dwelling, but could not prevail upon him to retire to bed until he had made a long and learned apology for the events of the evening, of which, however, there was not a word intelligible, except something about the Centaurs and the Lapithae.

29 Southey’s Madoc.

30 I may here mention that the fashion of compotation described in the text was still occasionally practised in Scotland in the author’s youth. A company, after having taken leave of their host, often went to finish the evening at the clachan or village, in ‘womb of tavern.’ Their entertainer always accompanied them to take the stirrup-cup, which often occasioned a long and late revel.

The poculum potatorium of the valiant Baron, his blessed Bear, has a prototype at the fine old Castle of Glamis, so rich in memorials of ancient times; it is a massive beaker of silver, double gilt, moulded into the shape of a lion, and holding about an English pint of wine. The form alludes to the family name of Strathmore, which is Lyon, and, when exhibited, the cup must necessarily be emptied to the Earl’s health. The author ought perhaps to be ashamed of recording that he has had the honour of swallowing the contents of the Lion; and the recollection of the feat served to suggest the story of the Bear of Bradwardine. In the family of Scott of Thirlestane (not Thirlestane in the Forest, but the place of the same name in Roxburghshire) was long preserved a cup of the same kind, in the form of a jack-boot. Each guest was obliged to empty this at his departure. If the guest’s name was Scott, the necessity was doubly imperative.

When the landlord of an inn presented his guests with deoch an doruis, that is, the drink at the door, or the stirrup-cup, the draught was not charged in the reckoning. On this point a learned bailie of the town of Forfar pronounced a very sound judgment.

A., an ale-wife in Forfar, had brewed her ‘peck of malt’ and set the liquor out of doors to cool; the cow of B., a neighbour of A., chanced to come by, and seeing the good beverage, was allured to taste it, and finally to drink it up. When A. came to take in her liquor, she found her tub empty, and from the cow’s staggering and staring, so as to betray her intemperance, she easily divined the mode in which her ‘browst’ had disappeared. To take vengeance on Crummie’s ribs with a stick was her first effort. The roaring of the cow brought B., her master, who remonstrated with his angry neighbour, and received in reply a demand for the value of the ale which Crummie had drunk up. B. refused payment, and was conveyed before C., the bailie, or sitting magistrate. He heard the case patiently; and then demanded of the plaintiff A. whether the cow had sat down to her potation or taken it standing. The plaintiff answered, she had not seen the deed committed, but she supposed the cow drank the ale while standing on her feet, adding, that had she been near she would have made her use them to some purpose. The bailie, on this admission, solemnly adjudged the cow’s drink to be deoch an doruis, a stirrup-cup, for which no charge could be made without violating the ancient hospitality of Scotland.

31 This has been censured as an anachronism; and it must be confessed that agriculture of this kind was unknown to the Scotch Sixty Years Since.

32 Suum cuique. This snatch of a ballad was composed by Andrew MacDonald, the ingenious and unfortunate author of Vimonda.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29