Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter V

Things Mend a Little

About noon Mr. Morton returned and brought an invitation from Major Melville that Mr. Waverley would honour him with his company to dinner, notwithstanding the unpleasant affair which detained him at Cairnvreckan, from which he should heartily rejoice to see Mr. Waverley completely extricated. The truth was that Mr. Morton’s favourable report and opinion had somewhat staggered the preconceptions of the old soldier concerning Edward’s supposed accession to the mutiny in the regiment; and in the unfortunate state of the country the mere suspicion of disaffection or an inclination to join the insurgent Jacobites might infer criminality indeed, but certainly not dishonour. Besides, a person whom the Major trusted had reported to him (though, as it proved, inaccurately) a contradiction of the agitating news of the preceding evening. According to this second edition of the intelligence, the Highlanders had withdrawn from the Lowland frontier with the purpose of following the army in their march to Inverness. The Major was at a loss, indeed, to reconcile his information with the well-known abilities of some of the gentlemen in the Highland army, yet it was the course which was likely to be most agreeable to others. He remembered the same policy had detained them in the north in the year 1715, and he anticipated a similar termination to the insurrection as upon that occasion.

This news put him in such good-humour that he readily acquiesced in Mr. Morton’s proposal to pay some hospitable attention to his unfortunate guest, and voluntarily added, he hoped the whole affair would prove a youthful escapade, which might be easily atoned by a short confinement. The kind mediator had some trouble to prevail on his young friend to accept the invitation. He dared not urge to him the real motive, which was a good-natured wish to secure a favourable report of Waverley’s case from Major Melville to Governor Blakeney. He remarked, from the flashes of our hero’s spirit, that touching upon this topic would be sure to defeat his purpose. He therefore pleaded that the invitation argued the Major’s disbelief of any part of the accusation which was inconsistent with Waverley’s conduct as a soldier and a man of honour, and that to decline his courtesy might be interpreted into a consciousness that it was unmerited. In short, he so far satisfied Edward that the manly and proper course was to meet the Major on easy terms that, suppressing his strong dislike again to encounter his cold and punctilious civility, Waverley agreed to be guided by his new friend.

The meeting at first was stiff and formal enough. But Edward, having accepted the invitation, and his mind being really soothed and relieved by the kindness of Morton, held himself bound to behave with ease, though he could not affect cordiality. The Major was somewhat of a bon vivant, and his wine was excellent. He told his old campaign stories, and displayed much knowledge of men and manners. Mr. Morton had an internal fund of placid and quiet gaiety, which seldom failed to enliven any small party in which he found himself pleasantly seated. Waverley, whose life was a dream, gave ready way to the predominating impulse and became the most lively of the party. He had at all times remarkable natural powers of conversation, though easily silenced by discouragement. On the present occasion he piqued himself upon leaving on the minds of his companions a favourable impression of one who, under such disastrous circumstances, could sustain his misfortunes with ease and gaiety. His spirits, though not unyielding, were abundantly elastic, and soon seconded his efforts. The trio were engaged in very lively discourse, apparently delighted with each other, and the kind host was pressing a third bottle of Burgundy, when the sound of a drum was heard at some distance. The Major, who, in the glee of an old soldier, had forgot the duties of a magistrate, cursed, with a muttered military oath, the circumstances which recalled him to his official functions. He rose and went towards the window, which commanded a very near view of the highroad, and he was followed by his guests.

The drum advanced, beating no measured martial tune, but a kind of rub-a-dub-dub, like that with which the fire-drum startles the slumbering artizans of a Scotch burgh. It is the object of this history to do justice to all men; I must therefore record, in justice to the drummer, that he protested he could beat any known march or point of war known in the British army, and had accordingly commenced with ‘Dumbarton’s Drums,’ when he was silenced by Gifted Gilfillan, the commander of the party, who refused to permit his followers to move to this profane, and even, as he said, persecutive tune, and commanded the drummer to beat the 119th Psalm. As this was beyond the capacity of the drubber of sheepskin, he was fain to have recourse to the inoffensive row-de-dow as a harmless substitute for the sacred music which his instrument or skill were unable to achieve. This may be held a trifling anecdote, but the drummer in question was no less than town-drummer of Anderton. I remember his successor in office, a member of that enlightened body, the British Convention. Be his memory, therefore, treated with due respect.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter34.html

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