Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XIII

A More Rational Day than the Last

The Baron of Bradwardine, mounted on an active and well-managed horse, and seated on a demi-pique saddle, with deep housings to agree with his livery, was no bad representative of the old school. His light-coloured embroidered coat, and superbly barred waistcoat, his brigadier wig, surmounted by a small gold-laced cocked-hat, completed his personal costume; but he was attended by two well-mounted servants on horseback, armed with holster-pistols.

In this guise he ambled forth over hill and valley, the admiration of every farm-yard which they passed in their progress, till, ‘low down in a grassy vale,’ they found David Gellatley leading two very tall deer greyhounds, and presiding over half a dozen curs, and about as many bare-legged and bare-headed boys, who, to procure the chosen distinction of attending on the chase, had not failed to tickle his ears with the dulcet appellation of Maister Gellatley, though probably all and each had hooted him on former occasions in the character of daft Davie. But this is no uncommon strain of flattery to persons in office, nor altogether confined to the barelegged villagers of Tully-Veolan; it was in fashion Sixty Years Since, is now, and will be six hundred years hence, if this admirable compound of folly and knavery, called the world, shall be then in existence.

These Gillie-wet-foots, as they were called, were destined to beat the bushes, which they performed with so much success, that, after half an hour’s search, a roe was started, coursed, and killed; the Baron following on his white horse, like Earl Percy of yore, and magnanimously flaying and embowelling the slain animal (which, he observed, was called by the French chasseurs, faire la curee) with his own baronial couteau de chasse. After this ceremony, he conducted his guest homeward by a pleasant and circuitous route, commanding an extensive prospect of different villages and houses, to each of which Mr. Bradwardine attached some anecdote of history or genealogy, told in language whimsical from prejudice and pedantry, but often respectable for the good sense and honourable feelings which his narrative displayed, and almost always curious, if not valuable, for the information they contained.

The truth is, the ride seemed agreeable to both gentlemen, because they found amusement in each other’s conversation, although their characters and habits of thinking were in many respects totally opposite. Edward, we have informed the reader, was warm in his feelings, wild and romantic in his ideas and in his taste of reading, with a strong disposition towards poetry. Mr Bradwardine was the reverse of all this, and piqued himself upon stalking through life with the same upright, starched, stoical gravity which distinguished his evening promenade upon the terrace of Tully-Veolan, where for hours together — the very model of old Hardyknute —

Stately stepp’d he east the wa’,

And stately stepp’d he west

As for literature, he read the classic poets, to be sure, and the ‘Epithalamium’ of Georgius Buchanan and Arthur Johnston’s Psalms, of a Sunday; and the ‘Deliciae Poetarum Scotorum,’ and Sir David Lindsay’s ‘Works’, and Barbour’s ‘Brace’, and Blind Harry’s ‘Wallace’, and ‘The Gentle Shepherd’, and ‘The Cherry and The Slae.’

But though he thus far sacrificed his time to the Muses, he would, if the truth must be spoken, have been much better pleased had the pious or sapient apothegms, as well as the historical narratives, which these various works contained, been presented to him in the form of simple prose. And he sometimes could not refrain from expressing contempt of the ‘vain and unprofitable art of poem-making’, in which, he said,‘the only one who had excelled in his time was Allan Ramsay, the periwigmaker.’ 34

But although Edward and he differed TOTO COELO, as the Baron would have said, upon this subject, yet they met upon history as on a neutral ground, in which each claimed an interest. The Baron, indeed, only cumbered his memory with matters of fact, the cold, dry, hard outlines which history delineates. Edward, on the contrary, loved to fill up and round the sketch with the colouring of a warm and vivid imagination, which gives light and life to the actors and speakers in the drama of past ages. Yet with tastes so opposite, they contributed greatly to each other’s amusement. Mr. Bradwardine’s minute narratives and powerful memory supplied to Waverley fresh subjects of the kind upon which his fancy loved to labour, and opened to him a new mine of incident and of character. And he repaid the pleasure thus communicated by an earnest attention, valuable to all story-tellers, more especially to the Baron, who felt his habits of self-respect flattered by it; and sometimes also by reciprocal communications, which interested Mr. Bradwardine, as confirming or illustrating his own favourite anecdotes. Besides, Mr. Bradwardine loved to talk of the scenes of his youth, whichl had been spent in camps and foreign lands, and had many interesting particulars to tell of the generals under whom he had served and the actions he had witnessed.

Both parties returned to Tully-Veolan in great good-humour with each other; Waverley desirous of studying more attentively what he considered as a singular and interesting character, gifted with a memory containing a curious register of ancient and modern anecdotes; and Bradwardine disposed to regard Edward as puer (or rather juvenis) bonae spei et magnae indolis, a youth devoid of that petulant volatility which is impatient of, or vilipends, the conversation and advice of his seniors, from which he predicted great things of his future success and deportment in life. There was no other guest except Mr. Rubrick, whose information and discourse, as a clergyman and a scholar, harmonised very well with that of the Baron and his guest.

Shortly after dinner, the Baron, as if to show that his temperance was not entirely theoretical, proposed a visit to Rose’s apartment, or, as he termed it, her troisieme etage. Waverley was accordingly conducted through one or two of those long awkward passages with which ancient architects studied to puzzle the inhabitants of the houses which they planned, at the end of which Mr. Bradwardine began to ascend, by two steps at once, a very steep, narrow, and winding stair, leaving Mr. Rubrick and Waverley to follow at more leisure, while he should announce their approach to his daughter.

After having climbed this perpendicular corkscrew until their brains were almost giddy, they arrived in a little matted lobby, which served as an anteroom to Rose’s sanctum sanctorum, and through which they entered her parlour. It was a small, but pleasant apartment, opening to the south, and hung with tapestry; adorned besides with two pictures, one of her mother, in the dress of a shepherdess, with a bell-hoop; the other of the Baron, in his tenth year, in a blue coat, embroidered waistcoat, laced hat, and bag-wig, with a bow in his hand. Edward could not help smiling at the costume, and at the odd resemblance between the round, smooth, red-cheeked, staring visage in the portrait, and the gaunt, bearded, hollow-eyed, swarthy features, which travelling, fatigues of war, and advanced age, had bestowed on the original. The Baron joined in the laugh. ‘Truly,’ he said,‘that picture was a woman’s fantasy of my good mother’s (a daughter of the Laird of Tulliellum, Captain Waverley; I indicated the house to you when we were on the top of the Shinnyheuch; it was burnt by the Dutch auxiliaries brought in by the Government in 1715); I never sate for my pourtraicture but once since that was painted, and it was at the special and reiterated request of the Marechal Duke of Berwick.’

The good old gentleman did not mention what Mr. Rubrick afterwards told Edward, that the Duke had done him this honour on account of his being the first to mount the breach of a fort in Savoy during the memorable campaign of 1709, and his having there defended himself with his half-pike for nearly ten minutes before any support reached him. To do the Baron justice, although sufficiently prone to dwell upon, and even to exaggerate, his family dignity and consequence, he was too much a man of real courage ever to allude to such personal acts of merit as he had himself manifested.

Miss Rose now appeared from the interior room of her apartment, to welcome her father and his friends. The little labours in which she had been employed obviously showed a natural taste, which required only cultivation. Her father had taught her French and Italian, and a few of the ordinary authors in those languages ornamented her shelves. He had endeavoured also to be her preceptor in music; but as he began with the more abstruse doctrines of the science, and was not perhaps master of them himself, she had made no proficiency farther than to be able to accompany her voice with the harpsichord; but even this was not very common in Scotland at that period. To make amends, she sung with great taste and feeling, and with a respect to the sense of what she uttered that might be proposed in example to ladies of much superior musical talent. Her natural good sense taught her that, if, as we are assured by high authority, music be ‘married to immortal verse,’ they are very often divorced by the performer in a most shameful manner. It was perhaps owing to this sensibility to poetry, and power of combining its expression with those of the musical notes, that her singing gave more pleasure to all the unlearned in music, and even to many of the learned, than could have been communicated by a much finer voice and more brilliant execution unguided by the same delicacy of feeling.

A bartizan, or projecting gallery, before the windows of her parlour, served to illustrate another of Rose’s pursuits; for it was crowded with flowers of different kinds, which she had taken under her special protection. A projecting turret gave access to this Gothic balcony, which commanded a most beautiful prospect. The formal garden, with its high bounding walls, lay below, contracted, as it seemed, to a mere parterre; while the view extended beyond them down a wooded glen, where the small river was sometimes visible, sometimes hidden in copse. The eye might be delayed by a desire to rest on the rocks, which here and there rose from the dell with massive or spiry fronts, or it might dwell on the noble, though ruined tower, which was here beheld in all its dignity, frowning from a promontory over the river. To the left were seen two or three cottages, a part of the village, the brow of the hill concealed the others. The glen, or dell, was terminated by a sheet of water, called Loch Veolan, into which the brook discharged itself, and which now glistened in the western sun. The distant country seemed open and varied in surface, though not wooded; and there was nothing to interrupt the view until the scene was bounded by a ridge of distant and blue hills, which formed the southern boundary of the strath or valley. To this pleasant station Miss Bradwardine had ordered coffee.

The view of the old tower, or fortalice, introduced some family anecdotes and tales of Scottish chivalry, which the Baron told with great enthusiasm. The projecting peak of an impending crag which rose near it had acquired the name of Saint Swithin’s Chair. It was the scene of a peculiar superstition, of which Mr. Rubrick mentioned some curious particulars, which reminded Waverley of a rhyme quoted by Edgar in King Lear; and Rose was called upon to sing a little legend, in which they had been interwoven by some village poet,

Who, noteless as the race from which he sprung,

Saved others’ names, but left his own unsung.

The sweetness of her voice, and the simple beauty of her music, gave all the advantage which the minstrel could have desired, and which his poetry so much wanted. I almost doubt if it can be read with patience, destitute of these advantages, although I conjecture the following copy to have been somewhat corrected by Waverley, to suit the taste of those who might not relish pure antiquity.

Saint Swithin’s Chair

On Hallow-Mass Eve, ere ye boune ye to rest,

Ever beware that your couch be bless’d;

Sign it with cross, and sain it with bead,

Sing the Ave, and say the Creed.

For on Hallow-Mass Eve the Night-Hag will ride,

And all her nine-fold sweeping on by her side,

Whether the wind sing lowly or loud,

Sailing through moonshine or swath’d in the cloud.

The Lady she sat in Saint Swithin’s Chair,

The dew of the night has damp’d her hair:

Her cheek was pale; but resolved and high

Was the word of her lip and the glance of her eye.

She mutter’d the spell of Swithin bold,

When his naked foot traced the midnight wold,

When he stopp’d the Hag as she rode the night,

And bade her descend, and her promise plight.

He that dare sit on Saint Swithin’s Chair,

When the Night-Hag wings the troubled air,

Questions three, when he speaks the spell,

He may ask, and she must tell.

The Baron has been with King Robert his liege

These three long years in battle and siege;

News are there none of his weal or his woe,

And fain the Lady his fate would know.

She shudders and stops as the charm she speaks; —

Is it the moody owl that shrieks?

Or is it that sound, betwixt laughter and scream,

The voice of the Demon who haunts the stream?

The moan of the wind sunk silent and low,

And the roaring torrent had ceased to flow;

The calm was more dreadful than raging storm,

When the cold grey mist brought the ghastly Form!

‘I am sorry to disappoint the company, especially Captain Waverley, who listens with such laudable gravity; it is but a fragment, although I think there are other verses, describing the return of the Baron from the wars, and how the lady was found “clay-cold upon the grounsill ledge.’”

‘It is one of those figments,’ observed Mr. Bradwardine, ‘with which the early history of distinguished families was deformed in the times of superstition; as that of Rome, and other ancient nations, had their prodigies, sir, the which you may read in ancient histories, or in the little work compiled by Julius Obsequens, and inscribed by the learned Scheffer, the editor, to his patron, Benedictus Skytte, Baron of Dudershoff.’

‘My father has a strange defiance of the marvellous, Captain Waverley,’ observed Rose, ‘and once stood firm when a whole synod of Presbyterian divines were put to the rout by a sudden apparition of the foul fiend.’

Waverley looked as if desirous to hear more.

‘Must I tell my story as well as sing my song? Well — Once upon a time there lived an old woman, called Janet Gellatley, who was suspected to be a witch, on the infallible grounds that she was very old, very ugly, very poor, and had two sons, one of whom was a poet and the other a fool, which visitation, all the neighbourhood agreed, had come upon her for the sin of witchcraft. And she was imprisoned for a week in the steeple of the parish church, and sparely supplied with food, and not permitted to sleep until she herself became as much persuaded of her being a witch as her accusers; and in this lucid and happy state of mind was brought forth to make a clean breast, that is, to make open confession of her sorceries, before all the Whig gentry and ministers in the vicinity, who were no conjurors themselves. My father went to see fair play between the witch and the clergy; for the witch had been born on his estate. And while the witch was confessing that the Enemy appeared, and made his addresses to her as a handsome black man, — which, if you could have seen poor old blear-eyed Janet, reflected little honour on Apollyon’s taste, — and while the auditors listened with astonished ears, and the clerk recorded with a trembling hand, she, all of a sudden, changed the low mumbling tone with which she spoke into a shrill yell, and exclaimed, “Look to yourselves! look to yourselves! I see the Evil One sitting in the midst of ye.” The surprise was general, and terror and flight its immediate consequences. Happy were those who were next the door; and many were the disasters that befell hats, bands, cuffs, and wigs, before they could get out of the church, where they left the obstinate prelatist to settle matters with the witch and her admirer at his own peril or pleasure.’

‘Risu solvuntur tabulae,’ said the Baron; ‘when they recovered their panic trepidation they were too much ashamed to bring any wakening of the process against Janet Gellatley.’35

This anecdote led to a long discussion of

All those idle thoughts and fantasies,

Devices, dreams, opinions unsound,

Shows, visions, soothsays, and prophecies,

And all that feigned is, as leasings, tales, and lies.

With such conversation, and the romantic legends which it introduced, closed our hero’s second evening in the house of Tully-Veolan.

34 The Baron ought to have remembered that the joyous Allan literally drew his blood from the house of the noble earl whom he terms —

Dalhousie of an old descent

My stoup, my pride, my ornament.

35 The story last told was said to have happened in the south of Scotland; but cedant arma togae and let the gown have its dues. It was an old clergyman, who had wisdom and firmness enough to resist the panic which seized his brethren, who was the means of rescuing a poor insane creature from the cruel fate which would otherwise have overtaken her. The accounts of the trials for witchcraft form one of the most deplorable chapters in Scottish story.

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