Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter IV

A Confidant

Waverley awoke in the morning from troubled dreams and unrefreshing slumbers to a full consciousness of the horrors of his situation. How it might terminate he knew not. He might be delivered up to military law, which, in the midst of civil war, was not likely to be scrupulous in the choice of its victims or the quality of the evidence. Nor did he feel much more comfortable at the thoughts of a trial before a Scottish court of justice, where he knew the laws and forms differed in many respects from those of England, and had been taught to believe, however erroneously, that the liberty and rights of the subject were less carefully protected. A sentiment of bitterness rose in his mind against the government, which he considered as the cause of his embarrassment and peril, and he cursed internally his scrupulous rejection of Mac-Ivor’s invitation to accompany him to the field.

‘Why did not I,’ he said to himself, ‘like other men of honour, take the earliest opportunity to welcome to Britain the descendant of her ancient kings and lineal heir of her throne? Why did not I—

Unthread the rude eye of rebellion,

And welcome home again discarded faith,

Seek out Prince Charles, and fall before his feet?

All that has been recorded of excellence and worth in the house of Waverley has been founded upon their loyal faith to the house of Stuart. From the interpretation which this Scotch magistrate has put upon the letters of my uncle and father, it is plain that I ought to have understood them as marshalling me to the course of my ancestors; and it has been my gross dulness, joined to the obscurity of expression which they adopted for the sake of security, that has confounded my judgment. Had I yielded to the first generous impulse of indignation when I learned that my honour was practised upon, how different had been my present situation! I had then been free and in arms fighting, like my forefathers, for love, for loyalty, and for fame. And now I am here, netted and in the toils, at the disposal of a suspicious, stern, and cold-hearted man, perhaps to be turned over to the solitude of a dungeon or the infamy of a public execution. O, Fergus! how true has your prophecy proved; and how speedy, how very speedy, has been its accomplishment!’

While Edward was ruminating on these painful subjects of contemplation, and very naturally, though not quite so justly, bestowing upon the reigning dynasty that blame which was due to chance, or, in part at least, to his own unreflecting conduct, Mr. Morton availed himself of Major Melville’s permission to pay him an early visit.

Waverley’s first impulse was to intimate a desire that he might not be disturbed with questions or conversation; but he suppressed it upon observing the benevolent and reverend appearance of the clergyman who had rescued him from the immediate violence of the villagers.

‘I believe, sir,’ said the unfortunate young man,‘that in any other circumstances I should have had as much gratitude to express to you as the safety of my life may be worth; but such is the present tumult of my mind, and such is my anticipation of what I am yet likely to endure, that I can hardly offer you thanks for your interposition.’

Mr. Morton replied, that, far from making any claim upon his good opinion, his only wish and the sole purpose of his visit was to find out the means of deserving it. ‘My excellent friend, Major Melville,’ he continued, ‘has feelings and duties as a soldier and public functionary by which I am not fettered; nor can I always coincide in opinions which he forms, perhaps with too little allowance for the imperfections of human nature.’ He paused and then proceeded: ‘I do not intrude myself on your confidence, Mr. Waverley, for the purpose of learning any circumstances the knowledge of which can be prejudicial either to yourself or to others; but I own my earnest wish is that you would intrust me with any particulars which could lead to your exculpation. I can solemnly assure you they will be deposited with a faithful and, to the extent of his limited powers, a zealous agent.’

‘You are, sir, I presume, a Presbyterian clergyman?’ Mr. Morton bowed. ‘Were I to be guided by the prepossessions of education, I might distrust your friendly professions in my case; but I have observed that similar prejudices are nourished in this country against your professional brethren of the Episcopal persuasion, and I am willing to believe them equally unfounded in both cases.’

‘Evil to him that thinks otherwise,’ said Mr. Morton; ‘or who holds church government and ceremonies as the exclusive gage of Christian faith or moral virtue.’

‘But,’ continued Waverley, ‘I cannot perceive why I should trouble you with a detail of particulars, out of which, after revolving them as carefully as possible in my recollection, I find myself unable to explain much of what is charged against me. I know, indeed, that I am innocent, but I hardly see how I can hope to prove myself so.’

‘It is for that very reason, Mr. Waverley,’ said the clergyman, ‘that I venture to solicit your confidence. My knowledge of individuals in this country is pretty general, and can upon occasion be extended. Your situation will, I fear, preclude your taking those active steps for recovering intelligence or tracing imposture which I would willingly undertake in your behalf; and if you are not benefited by my exertions, at least they cannot be prejudicial to you.’

Waverley, after a few minutes’ reflection, was convinced that his reposing confidence in Mr. Morton, so far as he himself was concerned, could hurt neither Mr. Bradwardine nor Fergus Mac-Ivor, both of whom had openly assumed arms against the government, and that it might possibly, if the professions of his new friend corresponded in sincerity with the earnestness of his expression, be of some service to himself. He therefore ran briefly over most of the events with which the reader is already acquainted, suppressing his attachment to Flora, and indeed neither mentioning her nor Rose Bradwardine in the course of his narrative.

Mr. Morton seemed particularly struck with the account of Waverley’s visit to Donald Bean Lean. ‘I am glad,’ he said, ‘you did not mention this circumstance to the Major. It is capable of great misconstruction on the part of those who do not consider the power of curiosity and the influence of romance as motives of youthful conduct. When I was a young man like you, Mr. Waverley, any such hair-brained expedition (I beg your pardon for the expression) would have had inexpressible charms for me. But there are men in the world who will not believe that danger and fatigue are often incurred without any very adequate cause, and therefore who are sometimes led to assign motives of action entirely foreign to the truth. This man Bean Lean is renowned through the country as a sort of Robin Hood, and the stories which are told of his address and enterprise are the common tales of the winter fireside. He certainly possesses talents beyond the rude sphere in which he moves; and, being neither destitute of ambition nor encumbered with scruples, he will probably attempt, by every means, to distinguish himself during the period of these unhappy commotions.’ Mr. Morton then made a careful memorandum of the various particulars of Waverley’s interview with Donald Bean Lean and the other circumstances which he had communicated.

The interest which this good man seemed to take in his misfortunes, above all, the full confidence he appeared to repose in his innocence, had the natural effect of softening Edward’s heart, whom the coldness of Major Melville had taught to believe that the world was leagued to oppress him. He shook Mr. Morton warmly by the hand, and, assuring him that his kindness and sympathy had relieved his mind of a heavy load, told him that, whatever might be his own fate, he belonged to a family who had both gratitude and the power of displaying it. The earnestness of his thanks called drops to the eyes of the worthy clergyman, who was doubly interested in the cause for which he had volunteered his services, by observing the genuine and undissembled feelings of his young friend.

Edward now inquired if Mr. Morton knew what was likely to be his destination.

‘Stirling Castle,’ replied his friend; ‘and so far I am well pleased for your sake, for the governor is a man of honour and humanity. But I am more doubtful of your treatment upon the road; Major Melville is involuntarily obliged to intrust the custody of your person to another.’

‘I am glad of it,’ answered Waverley. ‘I detest that cold-blooded calculating Scotch magistrate. I hope he and I shall never meet more. He had neither sympathy with my innocence nor with my wretchedness; and the petrifying accuracy with which he attended to every form of civility, while he tortured me by his questions, his suspicions, and his inferences, was as tormenting as the racks of the Inquisition. Do not vindicate him, my dear sir, for that I cannot bear with patience; tell me rather who is to have the charge of so important a state prisoner as I am.’

‘I believe a person called Gilfillan, one of the sect who are termed Cameronians.’

‘I never heard of them before.’

‘They claim,’ said the clergyman, ‘to represent the more strict and severe Presbyterians, who, in Charles Second’s and James Second’s days, refused to profit by the Toleration, or Indulgence, as it was called, which was extended to others of that religion. They held conventicles in the open fields, and, being treated with great violence and cruelty by the Scottish government, more than once took arms during those reigns. They take their name from their leader, Richard Cameron.’

‘I recollect,’ said Waverley; ‘but did not the triumph of Presbytery at the Revolution extinguish that sect?’

‘By no means,’ replied Morton; ‘that great event fell yet far short of what they proposed, which was nothing less than the complete establishment of the Presbyterian Church upon the grounds of the old Solemn League and Covenant. Indeed, I believe they scarce knew what they wanted; but being a numerous body of men, and not unacquainted with the use of arms, they kept themselves together as a separate party in the state, and at the time of the Union had nearly formed a most unnatural league with their old enemies the Jacobites to oppose that important national measure. Since that time their numbers have gradually diminished; but a good many are still to be found in the western counties, and several, with a better temper than in 1707, have now taken arms for government. This person, whom they call Gifted Gilfillan, has been long a leader among them, and now heads a small party, which will pass here to-day or to-morrow on their march towards Stirling, under whose escort Major Melville proposes you shall travel. I would willingly speak to Gilfillan in your behalf; but, having deeply imbibed all the prejudices of his sect, and being of the same fierce disposition, he would pay little regard to the remonstrances of an Erastian divine, as he would politely term me. And now, farewell, my young friend; for the present I must not weary out the Major’s indulgence, that I may obtain his permission to visit you again in the course of the day.’

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