Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XII

Repentance and a Reconciliation

Waverley was unaccustomed to the use of wine, excepting with great temperance. He slept therefore soundly till late in the succeeding morning, and then awakened to a painful recollection of the scene of the preceding evening. He had received a personal affront — he, a gentleman, a soldier, and a Waverley. True, the person who offered it was not, at the time it was given, possessed of the moderate share of sense which nature had allotted him; true also, in resenting this insult, he would break the laws of Heaven as well as of his country; true, in doing so, he might take the life of a young man who perhaps respectably discharged the social duties, and render his family miserable, or he might lose his own — no pleasant alternative even to the bravest, when it is debated coolly and in private.

All this pressed on his mind; yet the original statement recurred with the same irresistible force. He had received a personal insult; he was of the house of Waverley; and he bore a commission. There was no alternative; and he descended to the breakfast parlour with the intention of taking leave of the family, and writing to one of his brother officers to meet him at the inn midway between Tully-Veolan and the town where they were quartered, in order that he might convey such a message to the Laird of Balmawhapple as the circumstances seemed to demand. He found Miss Bradwardine presiding over the tea and coffee, the table loaded with warm bread, both of flour, oatmeal, and barleymeal, in the shape of loaves, cakes, biscuits, and other varieties, together with eggs, reindeer ham, mutton and beef ditto, smoked salmon, marmalade, and all the other delicacies which induced even Johnson himself to extol the luxury of a Scotch breakfast above that of all other countries. A mess of oatmeal porridge, flanked by a silver jug, which held an equal mixture of cream and butter-milk, was placed for the Baron’s share of this repast; but Rose observed, he had walked out early in the morning, after giving orders that his guest should not be disturbed.

Waverley sat down almost in silence, and with an air of absence and abstraction which could not give Miss Bradwardine a favourable opinion of his talents for conversation. He answered at random one or two observations which she ventured to make upon ordinary topics; so that, feeling herself almost repulsed in her efforts at entertaining him, and secretly wondering that a scarlet coat should cover no better breeding, she left him to his mental amusement of cursing Doctor Doubleit’s favourite constellation of Ursa Major as the cause of all the mischief which had already happened and was likely to ensue. At once he started, and his colour heightened, as, looking toward the window, he beheld the Baron and young Balmawhapple pass arm in arm, apparently in deep conversation; and he hastily asked, ‘Did Mr. Falconer sleep here last night?’ Rose, not much pleased with the abruptness of the first question which the young stranger had addressed to her, answered drily in the negative, and the conversation again sunk into silence.

At this moment Mr. Saunderson appeared, with a message from his master, requesting to speak with Captain Waverley in another apartment. With a heart which beat a little quicker, not indeed from fear, but from uncertainty and anxiety, Edward obeyed the summons. He found the two gentlemen standing together, an air of complacent dignity on the brow of the Baron, while something like sullenness or shame, or both, blanked the bold visage of Balmawhapple. The former slipped his arm through that of the latter, and thus seeming to walk with him, while in reality he led him, advanced to meet Waverley, and, stopping in the midst of the apartment, made in great state the following oration: ‘Captain Waverley — my young and esteemed friend, Mr. Falconer of Balmawhapple, has craved of my age and experience, as of one not wholly unskilled in the dependencies and punctilios of the duello or monomachia, to be his interlocutor in expressing to you the regret with which he calls to remembrance certain passages of our symposion last night, which could not but be highly displeasing to you, as serving for the time under this present existing government. He craves you, sir, to drown in oblivion the memory of such solecisms against the laws of politeness, as being what his better reason disavows, and to receive the hand which he offers you in amity; and I must needs assure you that nothing less than a sense of being dans son tort, as a gallant French chevalier, Mons. Le Bretailleur, once said to me on such an occasion, and an opinion also of your peculiar merit, could have extorted such concessions; for he and all his family are, and have been, time out of mind, Mavortia pectora, as Buchanan saith, a bold and warlike sept, or people.’

Edward immediately, and with natural politeness, accepted the hand which Balmawhapple, or rather the Baron in his character of mediator, extended towards him. ‘It was impossible,’ he said, ‘for him to remember what a gentleman expressed his wish he had not uttered; and he willingly imputed what had passed to the exuberant festivity of the day.’

‘That is very handsomely said,’ answered the Baron; ‘for undoubtedly, if a man be ebrius, or intoxicated, an incident which on solemn and festive occasions may and will take place in the life of a man of honour; and if the same gentleman, being fresh and sober, recants the contumelies which he hath spoken in his liquor, it must be held vinum locutum est; the words cease to be his own. Yet would I not find this exculpation relevant in the case of one who was ebriosus, or an habitual drunkard; because, if such a person choose to pass the greater part of his time in the predicament of intoxication, he hath no title to be exeemed from the obligations of the code of politeness, but should learn to deport himself peaceably and courteously when under influence of the vinous stimulus. And now let us proceed to breakfast, and think no more of this daft business.’

I must confess, whatever inference may be drawn from the circumstance, that Edward, after so satisfactory an explanation, did much greater honour to the delicacies of Miss Bradwardine’s breakfast-table than his commencement had promised. Balmawhapple, on the contrary, seemed embarrassed and dejected; and Waverley now, for the first time, observed that his arm was in a sling, which seemed to account for the awkward and embarrassed manner with which he had presented his hand. To a question from Miss Bradwardine, he muttered in answer something about his horse having fallen; and seeming desirous to escape both from the subject and the company, he arose as soon as breakfast was over, made his bow to the party, and, declining the Baron’s invitation to tarry till after dinner, mounted his horse and returned to his own home.

Waverley now announced his purpose of leaving Tully-Veolan early enough after dinner to gain the stage at which he meant to sleep; but the unaffected and deep mortification with which the good-natured and affectionate old gentleman heard the proposal quite deprived him of courage to persist in it. No sooner had he gained Waverley’s consent to lengthen his visit for a few days than he laboured to remove the grounds upon which he conceived he had meditated a more early retreat. ‘I would not have you opine, Captain Waverley, that I am by practice or precept an advocate of ebriety, though it may be that, in our festivity of last night, some of our friends, if not perchance altogether ebrii, or drunken, were, to say the least, ebrioli, by which the ancients designed those who were fuddled, or, as your English vernacular and metaphorical phrase goes, half-seas-over. Not that I would so insinuate respecting you, Captain Waverley, who, like a prudent youth, did rather abstain from potation; nor can it be truly said of myself, who, having assisted at the tables of many great generals and marechals at their solemn carousals, have the art to carry my wine discreetly, and did not, during the whole evening, as ye must have doubtless observed, exceed the bounds of a modest hilarity.’

There was no refusing assent to a proposition so decidedly laid down by him, who undoubtedly was the best judge; although, had Edward formed his opinion from his own recollections, he would have pronounced that the Baron was not only ebriolus, but verging to become ebrius; or, in plain English, was incomparably the most drunk of the party, except perhaps his antagonist the Laird of Balmawhapple. However, having received the expected, or rather the required, compliment on his sobriety, the Baron proceeded — ‘No, sir, though I am myself of a strong temperament, I abhor ebriety, and detest those who swallow wine gulce causa, for the oblectation of the gullet; albeit I might deprecate the law of Pittacus of Mitylene, who punished doubly a crime committed under the influence of ‘Liber Pater’; nor would I utterly accede to the objurgation of the younger Plinius, in the fourteenth book of his ‘Historia Naturalis.’ No, sir, I distinguish, I discriminate, and approve of wine so far only as it maketh glad the face, or, in the language of Flaccus, recepto amico.’

Thus terminated the apology which the Baron of Bradwardine thought it necessary to make for the superabundance of his hospitality; and it may be easily believed that he was neither interrupted by dissent nor any expression of incredulity.

He then invited his guest to a morning ride, and ordered that Davie Gellatley should meet them at the dern path with Ban and Buscar. ‘For, until the shooting season commence, I would willingly show you some sport, and we may, God willing, meet with a roe. The roe, Captain Waverley, may be hunted at all times alike; for never being in what is called PRIDE OF GREASE, he is also never out of season, though it be a truth that his venison is not equal to that of either the red or fallow deer.33 But he will serve to show how my dogs run; and therefore they shall attend us with David Gellatley.’

Waverley expressed his surprise that his friend Davie was capable of such trust; but the Baron gave him to understand that this poor simpleton was neither fatuous, nec naturaliter idiota, as is expressed in the brieves of furiosity, but simply a crack-brained knave, who could execute very well any commission which jumped with his own humour, and made his folly a plea for avoiding every other. ‘He has made an interest with us,’ continued the Baron, ‘by saving Rose from a great danger with his own proper peril; and the roguish loon must therefore eat of our bread and drink of our cup, and do what he can, or what he will, which, if the suspicions of Saunderson and the Bailie are well founded, may perchance in his case be commensurate terms.’

Miss Bradwardine then gave Waverley to understand that this poor simpleton was dotingly fond of music, deeply affected by that which was melancholy, and transported into extravagant gaiety by light and lively airs. He had in this respect a prodigious memory, stored with miscellaneous snatches and fragments of all tunes and songs, which he sometimes applied, with considerable address, as the vehicles of remonstrance, explanation, or satire. Davie was much attached to the few who showed him kindness; and both aware of any slight or ill usage which he happened to receive, and sufficiently apt, where he saw opportunity, to revenge it. The common people, who often judge hardly of each other as well as of their betters, although they had expressed great compassion for the poor innocent while suffered to wander in rags about the village, no sooner beheld him decently clothed, provided for, and even a sort of favourite, than they called up all the instances of sharpness and ingenuity, in action and repartee, which his annals afforded, and charitably bottomed thereupon a hypothesis that David Gellatley was no farther fool than was necessary to avoid hard labour. This opinion was not better founded than that of the Negroes, who, from the acute and mischievous pranks of the monkeys, suppose that they have the gift of speech, and only suppress their powers of elocution to escape being set to work. But the hypothesis was entirely imaginary; David Gellatley was in good earnest the half-crazed simpleton which he appeared, and was incapable of any constant and steady exertion. He had just so much solidity as kept on the windy side of insanity, so much wild wit as saved him from the imputation of idiocy, some dexterity in field-sports (in which we have known as great fools excel), great kindness and humanity in the treatment of animals entrusted to him, warm affections, a prodigious memory, and an ear for music.

The stamping of horses was now heard in the court, and Davie’s voice singing to the two large deer greyhounds,

Hie away, hie away,

Over bank and over brae,

Where the copsewood is the greenest,

Where the fountains glisten sheenest,

Where the lady-fern grows strongest,

Where the morning dew lies longest,

Where the black-cock sweetest sips it,

Where the fairy latest trips it.

Hie to haunts right seldom seen,

Lovely, lonesome, cool, and green,

Over bank and over brae,

Hie away, hie away.

‘Do the verses he sings,’ asked Waverley, ‘belong to old Scottish poetry, Miss Bradwardine?’

‘I believe not,’ she replied. ‘This poor creature had a brother, and Heaven, as if to compensate to the family Davie’s deficiencies, had given him what the hamlet thought uncommon talents. An uncle contrived to educate him for the Scottish kirk, but he could not get preferment because he came from our GROUND. He returned from college hopeless and brokenhearted, and fell into a decline. My father supported him till his death, which happened before he was nineteen. He played beautifully on the flute, and was supposed to have a great turn for poetry. He was affectionate and compassionate to his brother, who followed him like his shadow, and we think that from him Davie gathered many fragments of songs and music unlike those of this country. But if we ask him where he got such a fragment as he is now singing, he either answers with wild and long fits of laughter, or else breaks into tears of lamentation; but was never heard to give any explanation, or to mention his brother’s name since his death.’

‘Surely,’ said Edward, who was readily interested by a tale bordering on the romantic, ‘surely more might be learned by more particular inquiry.’

‘Perhaps so,’ answered Rose; ‘but my father will not permit any one to practise on his feelings on this subject.’

By this time the Baron, with the help of Mr. Saunderson, had indued a pair of jack-boots of large dimensions, and now invited our hero to follow him as he stalked clattering down the ample stair-case, tapping each huge balustrade as he passed with the butt of his massive horse-whip, and humming, with the air of a chasseur of Louis Quatorze, —

Pour la chasse ordonnee il faut preparer tout.

Ho la ho! Vite! vite debout!

33 The learned in cookery dissent from the Baron of Bradwardine, and hold the roe venison dry and indifferent food, unless when dressed in soup and Scotch collops.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter12.html

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