Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXIX

Waverley’s Reception in the Lowlands After His Highland Tour

It was noon when the two friends stood at the top of the pass of Bally-Brough. ‘I must go no farther,’ said Fergus Mac-Ivor, who during the journey had in vain endeavoured to raise his friend’s spirits. ‘If my cross-grained sister has any share in your dejection, trust me she thinks highly of you, though her present anxiety about the public cause prevents her listening to any other subject. Confide your interest to me; I will not betray it, providing you do not again assume that vile cockade.’

‘No fear of that, considering the manner in which it has been recalled. Adieu, Fergus; do not permit your sister to forget me.’

‘And adieu, Waverley; you may soon hear of her with a prouder title. Get home, write letters, and make friends as many and as fast as you can; there will speedily be unexpected guests on the coast of Suffolk, or my news from France has deceived me.’68

Thus parted the friends; Fergus returning back to his castle, while Edward, followed by Callum Beg, the latter transformed from point to point into a Low-Country groom, proceeded to the little town of — .

Edward paced on under the painful and yet not altogether embittered feelings which separation and uncertainty produce in the mind of a youthful lover. I am not sure if the ladies understand the full value of the influence of absence, nor do I think it wise to teach it them, lest, like the Clelias and Mandanes of yore, they should resume the humour of sending their lovers into banishment. Distance, in truth, produces in idea the same effect as in real perspective. Objects are softened, and rounded, and rendered doubly graceful; the harsher and more ordinary points of character are mellowed down, and those by which it is remembered are the more striking outlines that mark sublimity, grace, or beauty. There are mists too in the mental as well as the natural horizon, to conceal what is less pleasing in distant objects, and there are happy lights, to stream in full glory upon those points which can profit by brilliant illumination.

Waverley forgot Flora Mac-Ivor’s prejudices in her magnanimity, and almost pardoned her indifference towards his affection when he recollected the grand and decisive object which seemed to fill her whole soul. She, whose sense of duty so wholly engrossed her in the cause of a benefactor, what would be her feelings in favour of the happy individual who should be so fortunate as to awaken them? Then came the doubtful question, whether he might not be that happy man, — a question which fancy endeavoured to answer in the affirmative, by conjuring up all she had said in his praise, with the addition of a comment much more flattering than the text warranted. All that was commonplace, all that belonged to the every-day world, was melted away and obliterated in those dreams of imagination, which only remembered with advantage the points of grace and dignity that distinguished Flora from the generality of her sex, not the particulars which she held in common with them. Edward was, in short, in the fair way of creating a goddess out of a high-spirited, accomplished, and beautiful young woman; and the time was wasted in castle-building until, at the descent of a steep hill, he saw beneath him the market-town of ——.

The Highland politeness of Callum Beg — there are few nations, by the way, who can boast of so much natural politeness as the Highlanders69 — the Highland civility of his attendant had not permitted him to disturb the reveries of our hero. But observing him rouse himself at the sight of the village, Callum pressed closer to his side, and hoped ‘when they cam to the public, his honour wad not say nothing about Vich Ian Vohr, for ta people were bitter Whigs, deil burst tem.’

Waverley assured the prudent page that he would be cautious; and as he now distinguished, not indeed the ringing of bells, but the tinkling of something like a hammer against the side of an old mossy, green, inverted porridge-pot that hung in an open booth, of the size and shape of a parrot’s cage, erected to grace the east end of a building resembling an old barn, he asked Callum Beg if it were Sunday.

‘Could na say just preceesely; Sunday seldom cam aboon the pass of Bally-Brough.’

On entering the town, however, and advancing towards the most apparent public-house which presented itself, the numbers of old women, in tartan screens and red cloaks, who streamed from the barn-resembling building, debating as they went the comparative merits of the blessed youth Jabesh Rentowel and that chosen vessel Maister Goukthrapple, induced Callum to assure his temporary master ‘that it was either ta muckle Sunday hersell, or ta little government Sunday that they ca’d ta fast.’

On alighting at the sign of the Seven-branched Golden Candlestick, which, for the further delectation of the guests, was graced with a short Hebrew motto, they were received by mine host, a tall thin puritanical figure, who seemed to debate with himself whether he ought to give shelter to those who travelled on such a day. Reflecting, however, in all probability, that he possessed the power of mulcting them for this irregularity, a penalty which they might escape by passing into Gregor Duncanson’s, at the sign of the Highlander and the Hawick Gill, Mr. Ebenezer Cruickshanks condescended to admit them into his dwelling.

To this sanctified person Waverley addressed his request that he would procure him a guide, with a saddle-horse, to carry his portmanteau to Edinburgh.

‘And whar may ye be coming from?’ demanded mine host of the Candlestick.

‘I have told you where I wish to go; I do not conceive any further information necessary either for the guide or his saddle-horse.’

‘Hem! Ahem!’ returned he of the Candlestick, somewhat disconcerted at this rebuff. ‘It’s the general fast, sir, and I cannot enter into ony carnal transactions on sic a day, when the people should be humbled and the backsliders should return, as worthy Mr. Goukthrapple said; and moreover when, as the precious Mr. Jabesh Rentowel did weel observe, the land was mourning for covenants burnt, broken, and buried.’

‘My good friend,’ said Waverley, ‘if you cannot let me have a horse and guide, my servant shall seek them elsewhere.’

‘Aweel! Your servant? and what for gangs he not forward wi’ you himsell?’

Waverley had but very little of a captain of horse’s spirit within him — I mean of that sort of spirit which I have been obliged to when I happened, in a mail coach or diligence, to meet some military man who has kindly taken upon him the disciplining of the waiters and the taxing of reckonings. Some of this useful talent our hero had, however, acquired during his military service, and on this gross provocation it began seriously to arise. ‘Look ye, sir; I came here for my own accommodation, and not to answer impertinent questions. Either say you can, or cannot, get me what I want; I shall pursue my course in either case.’

Mr. Ebenezer Cruickshanks left the room with some indistinct mutterings; but whether negative or acquiescent, Edward could not well distinguish. The hostess, a civil, quiet, laborious drudge, came to take his orders for dinner, but declined to make answer on the subject of the horse and guide; for the Salique law, it seems, extended to the stables of the Golden Candlestick.

From a window which overlooked the dark and narrow court in which Callum Beg rubbed down the horses after their journey, Waverley heard the following dialogue betwixt the subtle foot-page of Vich Ian Vohr and his landlord:—

‘Ye’ll be frae the north, young man?’ began the latter.

‘And ye may say that,’ answered Callum.

‘And ye’ll hae ridden a lang way the day, it may weel be?’

‘Sae lang, that I could weel tak a dram.’

‘Gudewife, bring the gill stoup.’

Here some compliments passed fitting the occasion, when my host of the Golden Candlestick, having, as he thought, opened his guest’s heart by this hospitable propitiation, resumed his scrutiny.

‘Ye’ll no hae mickle better whisky than that aboon the Pass?’

‘I am nae frae aboon the Pass.’

‘Ye’re a Highlandman by your tongue?’

‘Na; I am but just Aberdeen-a-way.’

‘And did your master come frae Aberdeen wi’ you?’

‘Ay; that’s when I left it mysell,’ answered the cool and impenetrable Callum Beg.

‘And what kind of a gentleman is he?’

‘I believe he is ane o’ King George’s state officers; at least he’s aye for ganging on to the south, and he has a hantle siller, and never grudges onything till a poor body, or in the way of a lawing.’

‘He wants a guide and a horse frae hence to Edinburgh?’

‘Ay, and ye maun find it him forthwith.’

‘Ahem! It will be chargeable.’

‘He cares na for that a bodle.’

‘Aweel, Duncan — did ye say your name was Duncan, or Donald?’

‘Na, man — Jamie — Jamie Steenson — I telt ye before.’

This last undaunted parry altogether foiled Mr. Cruickshanks, who, though not quite satisfied either with the reserve of the master or the extreme readiness of the man, was contented to lay a tax on the reckoning and horse-hire that might compound for his ungratified curiosity. The circumstance of its being the fast day was not forgotten in the charge, which, on the whole, did not, however, amount to much more than double what in fairness it should have been.

Callum Beg soon after announced in person the ratification of this treaty, adding, ‘Ta auld deevil was ganging to ride wi’ ta duinhe-wassel hersell.’

‘That will not be very pleasant, Callum, nor altogether safe, for our host seems a person of great curiosity; but a traveller must submit to these inconveniences. Meanwhile, my good lad, here is a trifle for you to drink Vich Ian Vohr’s health.’

The hawk’s eye of Callum flashed delight upon a golden guinea, with which these last words were accompanied. He hastened, not without a curse on the intricacies of a Saxon breeches pocket, or spleuchan, as he called it, to deposit the treasure in his fob; and then, as if he conceived the benevolence called for some requital on his part, he gathered close up to Edward, with an expression of countenance peculiarly knowing, and spoke in an undertone, ‘If his honour thought ta auld deevil Whig carle was a bit dangerous, she could easily provide for him, and teil ane ta wiser.’

‘How, and in what manner?’

‘Her ain sell,’ replied Callum, ‘could wait for him a wee bit frae the toun, and kittle his quarters wi’her skene-occle.’

‘Skene-occle! what’s that?’

Callum unbuttoned his coat, raised his left arm, and, with an emphatic nod, pointed to the hilt of a small dirk, snugly deposited under it, in the lining of his jacket. Waverley thought he had misunderstood his meaning; he gazed in his face, and discovered in Callum’s very handsome though embrowned features just the degree of roguish malice with which a lad of the same age in England would have brought forward a plan for robbing an orchard.

‘Good God, Callum, would you take the man’s life?’

‘Indeed,’ answered the young desperado, ‘and I think he has had just a lang enough lease o ‘t, when he’s for betraying honest folk that come to spend siller at his public.’

Edward saw nothing was to be gained by argument, and therefore contented himself with enjoining Callum to lay aside all practices against the person of Mr. Ebenezer Cruickshanks; in which injunction the page seemed to acquiesce with an air of great indifference.

‘Ta duinhe-wassel might please himsell; ta auld rudas loon had never done Callum nae ill. But here’s a bit line frae ta Tighearna, tat he bade me gie your honour ere I came back.’

The letter from the Chief contained Flora’s lines on the fate of Captain Wogan, whose enterprising character is so well drawn by Clarendon. He had originally engaged in the service of the Parliament, but had abjured that party upon the execution of Charles I; and upon hearing that the royal standard was set up by the Earl of Glencairn and General Middleton in the Highlands of Scotland, took leave of Charles II, who was then at Paris, passed into England, assembled a body of Cavaliers in the neighbourhood of London, and traversed the kingdom, which had been so long under domination of the usurper, by marches conducted with such skill, dexterity, and spirit that he safely united his handful of horsemen with the body of Highlanders then in arms. After several months of desultory warfare, in which Wogan’s skill and courage gained him the highest reputation, he had the misfortune to be wounded in a dangerous manner, and no surgical assistance being within reach he terminated his short but glorious career.

There were obvious reasons why the politic Chieftain was desirous to place the example of this young hero under the eye of Waverley, with whose romantic disposition it coincided so peculiarly. But his letter turned chiefly upon some trifling commissions which Waverley had promised to execute for him in England, and it was only toward the conclusion that Edward found these words: ‘I owe Flora a grudge for refusing us her company yesterday; and, as I am giving you the trouble of reading these lines, in order to keep in your memory your promise to procure me the fishing-tackle and cross-bow from London, I will enclose her verses on the Grave of Wogan. This I know will tease her; for, to tell you the truth, I think her more in love with the memory of that dead hero than she is likely to be with any living one, unless he shall tread a similar path. But English squires of our day keep their oak-trees to shelter their deer parks, or repair the losses of an evening at White’s, and neither invoke them to wreathe their brows nor shelter their graves. Let me hope for one brilliant exception in a dear friend, to whom I would most gladly give a dearer title.’

The verses were inscribed,

To an Oak Tree

in the Church-Yard of — — in the Highlands of Scotland, said to mark the Grave of Captain Wogan, killed in 1649.

Emblem of England’s ancient faith,

Full proudly may thy branches wave,

Where loyalty lies low in death,

And valour fills a timeless grave.

And thou, brave tenant of the tomb!

Repine not if our clime deny,

Above thine honour’d sod to bloom

The flowerets of a milder sky.

These owe their birth to genial May;

Beneath a fiercer sun they pine,

Before the winter storm decay;

And can their worth be type of thine?

No! for, ‘mid storms of Fate opposing,

Still higher swell’d thy dauntless heart,

And, while Despair the scene was closing,

Commenced thy brief but brilliant part.

‘T was then thou sought’st on Albyn’s hill,

(When England’s sons the strife resign’d)

A rugged race resisting still,

And unsubdued though unrefined.

Thy death’s hour heard no kindred wail,

No holy knell thy requiem rung;

Thy mourners were the plaided Gael,

Thy dirge the clamourous pibroch sung.

Yet who, in Fortune’s summer-shine

To waste life’s longest term away,

Would change that glorious dawn of thine,

Though darken’d ere its noontide day!

Be thine the tree whose dauntless boughs

Brave summer’s drought and winter’s gloom.

Rome bound with oak her patriots’ brows,

As Albyn shadows Wogan’s tomb.

Whatever might be the real merit of Flora Mac-Ivor’s poetry, the enthusiasm which it intimated was well calculated to make a corresponding impression upon her lover. The lines were read — read again, then deposited in Waverley’s bosom, then again drawn out, and read line by line, in a low and smothered voice, and with frequent pauses which prolonged the mental treat, as an epicure protracts, by sipping slowly, the enjoyment of a delicious beverage. The entrance of Mrs. Cruickshanks with the sublunary articles of dinner and wine hardly interrupted this pantomime of affectionate enthusiasm.

At length the tall ungainly figure and ungracious visage of Ebenezer presented themselves. The upper part of his form, notwithstanding the season required no such defence, was shrouded in a large great-coat, belted over his under habiliments, and crested with a huge cowl of the same stuff, which, when drawn over the head and hat, completely overshadowed both, and, being buttoned beneath the chin, was called a trot-cozy. His hand grasped a huge jockey-whip, garnished with brassmounting. His thin legs tenanted a pair of gambadoes, fastened at the sides with rusty clasps. Thus accoutred, he stalked into the midst of the apartment, and announced his errand in brief phrase: ‘Yer horses are ready.’

‘You go with me yourself then, landlord?’

‘I do, as far as Perth; where ye may be supplied with a guide to Embro’, as your occasions shall require.’

Thus saying, he placed under Waverley’s eye the bill which he held in his hand; and at the same time, self-invited, filled a glass of wine and drank devoutly to a blessing on their journey. Waverley stared at the man’s impudence, but, as their connection was to be short and promised to be convenient, he made no observation upon it; and, having paid his reckoning, expressed his intention to depart immediately. He mounted Dermid accordingly and sallied forth from the Golden Candlestick, followed by the puritanical figure we have described, after he had, at the expense of some time and difficulty, and by the assistance of a ‘louping-on-stane,’ or structure of masonry erected for the traveller’s convenience in front of the house, elevated his person to the back of a long-backed, raw-boned, thin-gutted phantom of a broken-down blood-horse, on which Waverley’s portmanteau was deposited. Our hero, though not in a very gay humour, could hardly help laughing at the appearance of his new squire, and at imagining the astonishment which his person and equipage would have excited at Waverley-Honour.

Edward’s tendency to mirth did not escape mine host of the Candlestick, who, conscious of the cause, infused a double portion of souring into the pharisaical leaven of his countenance, and resolved internally that, in one way or other, the young ‘Englisher’ should pay dearly for the contempt with which he seemed to regard him. Callum also stood at the gate and enjoyed, with undissembled glee, the ridiculous figure of Mr. Cruickshanks. As Waverley passed him he pulled off his hat respectfully, and, approaching his stirrup, bade him ‘Tak heed the auld whig deevil played him nae cantrip.’

Waverley once more thanked and bade him farewell, and then rode briskly onward, not sorry to be out of hearing of the shouts of the children, as they beheld old Ebenezer rise and sink in his stirrups to avoid the concussions occasioned by a hard trot upon a half-paved street. The village of — was soon several miles behind him.

Frontpiece2.jpg (133K)
Prince Charles Edward in Shelter — Etched by H. M. Raeburn

68 The sanguine Jacobites, during the eventful years 1745-46, kept up the spirits of their party by the rumour of descents from France on behalf of the Chevalier St. George.

69 The Highlander, in former times, had always a high idea of his own gentility, and was anxious to impress the same upon those with whom he conversed. His language abounded in the phrases of courtesy and compliment; and the habit of carrying arms, and mixing with those who did so, made it particularly desirable they should use cautious politeness in their intercourse with each other.

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