Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter VII

An Incident

The dinner hour of Scotland Sixty Years Since was two o’clock. It was therefore about four o’clock of a delightful autumn afternoon that Mr. Gilfillan commenced his march, in hopes, although Stirling was eighteen miles distant, he might be able, by becoming a borrower of the night for an hour or two, to reach it that evening. He therefore put forth his strength, and marched stoutly along at the head of his followers, eyeing our hero from time to time, as if he longed to enter into controversy with him. At length, unable to resist the temptation, he slackened his pace till he was alongside of his prisoner’s horse, and after marching a few steps in silence abreast of him, he suddenly asked — ‘Can ye say wha the carle was wi’ the black coat and the mousted head, that was wi’ the Laird of Cairnvreckan?’

‘A Presbyterian clergyman,’ answered Waverley.

‘Presbyterian!’ answered Gilfillan contemptuously; ‘a wretched Erastian, or rather an obscure Prelatist, a favourer of the black indulgence, ane of thae dumb dogs that canna bark; they tell ower a clash o’ terror and a clatter o’ comfort in their sermons, without ony sense, or savour, or life. Ye’ve been fed in siccan a fauld, belike?’

‘No; I am of the Church of England,’ said Waverley.

‘And they’re just neighbour-like,’ replied the Covenanter; ‘and nae wonder they gree sae weel. Wha wad hae thought the goodly structure of the Kirk of Scotland, built up by our fathers in 1642, wad hae been defaced by carnal ends and the corruptions of the time; — ay, wha wad hae thought the carved work of the sanctuary would hae been sae soon cut down!’

To this lamentation, which one or two of the assistants chorussed with a deep groan, our hero thought it unnecessary to make any reply. Whereupon Mr. Gilfillan, resolving that he should be a hearer at least, if not a disputant, proceeded in his Jeremiade.

‘And now is it wonderful, when, for lack of exercise anent the call to the service of the altar and the duty of the day, ministers fall into sinful compliances with patronage, and indemnities, and oaths, and bonds, and other corruptions, — is it wonderful, I say, that you, sir, and other sic-like unhappy persons, should labour to build up your auld Babel of iniquity, as in the bluidy persecuting saint-killing times? I trow, gin ye werena blinded wi’ the graces and favours, and services and enjoyments, and employments and inheritances, of this wicked world, I could prove to you, by the Scripture, in what a filthy rag ye put your trust; and that your surplices, and your copes and vestments, are but cast-off garments of the muckle harlot that sitteth upon seven hills and drinketh of the cup of abomination. But, I trow, ye are deaf as adders upon that side of the head; ay, ye are deceived with her enchantments, and ye traffic with her merchandise, and ye are drunk with the cup of her fornication!’

How much longer this military theologist might have continued his invective, in which he spared nobody but the scattered remnant of HILL-FOLK, as he called them, is absolutely uncertain. His matter was copious, his voice powerful, and his memory strong; so that there was little chance of his ending his exhortation till the party had reached Stirling, had not his attention been attracted by a pedlar who had joined the march from a cross-road, and who sighed or groaned with great regularity at all fitting pauses of his homily.

‘And what may ye be, friend?’ said the Gifted Gilfillan.

‘A puir pedlar, that’s bound for Stirling, and craves the protection of your honour’s party in these kittle times. Ah’ your honour has a notable faculty in searching and explaining the secret, — ay, the secret and obscure and incomprehensible causes of the backslidings of the land; ay, your honour touches the root o’ the matter.’

‘Friend,’ said Gilfillan, with a more complacent voice than he had hitherto used, ‘honour not me. I do not go out to park-dikes and to steadings and to market-towns to have herds and cottars and burghers pull off their bonnets to me as they do to Major Melville o’ Cairnvreckan, and ca’ me laird or captain or honour. No; my sma’ means, whilk are not aboon twenty thousand merk, have had the blessing of increase, but the pride of my heart has not increased with them; nor do I delight to be called captain, though I have the subscribed commission of that gospel-searching nobleman, the Earl of Glencairn, fa whilk I am so designated. While I live I am and will be called Habakkuk Gilfillan, who will stand up for the standards of doctrine agreed on by the ance famous Kirk of Scotland, before she trafficked with the accursed Achan, while he has a plack in his purse or a drap o’ bluid in his body.’

‘Ah,’ said the pedlar, ‘I have seen your land about Mauchlin. A fertile spot! your lines have fallen in pleasant places! And siccan a breed o’ cattle is not in ony laird’s land in Scotland.’

‘Ye say right, — ye say right, friend’ retorted Gilfillan eagerly, for he was not inaccessible to flattery upon this subject, — ‘ye say right; they are the real Lancashire, and there’s no the like o’ them even at the mains of Kilmaurs’; and he then entered into a discussion of their excellences, to which our readers will probably be as indifferent as our hero. After this excursion the leader returned to his theological discussions, while the pedlar, less profound upon those mystic points, contented himself with groaning and expressing his edification at suitable intervals.

‘What a blessing it would be to the puir blinded popish nations among whom I hae sojourned, to have siccan a light to their paths! I hae been as far as Muscovia in my sma’ trading way, as a travelling merchant, and I hae been through France, and the Low Countries, and a’ Poland, and maist feck o’ Germany, and O! it would grieve your honour’s soul to see the murmuring and the singing and massing that’s in the kirk, and the piping that’s in the quire, and the heathenish dancing and dicing upon the Sabbath!’

This set Gilfillan off upon the Book of Sports and the Covenant, and the Engagers, and the Protesters, and the Whiggamore’s Raid, and the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and the Longer and Shorter Catechism, and the Excommunication at Torwood, and the slaughter of Archbishop Sharp. This last topic, again, led him into the lawfulness of defensive arms, on which subject he uttered much more sense than could have been expected from some other parts of his harangue, and attracted even Waverley’s attention, who had hitherto been lost in his own sad reflections. Mr. Gilfillan then considered the lawfulness of a private man’s standing forth as the avenger of public oppression, and as he was labouring with great earnestness the cause of Mas James Mitchell, who fired at the Archbishop of Saint Andrews some years before the prelate’s assassination on Magus Muir, an incident occurred which interrupted his harangue.

The rays of the sun were lingering on the very verge of the horizon as the party ascended a hollow and somewhat steep path which led to the summit of a rising ground. The country was uninclosed, being part of a very extensive heath or common; but it was far from level, exhibiting in many places hollows filled with furze and broom; in others, little dingles of stunted brushwood. A thicket of the latter description crowned the hill up which the party ascended. The foremost of the band, being the stoutest and most active, had pushed on, and, having surmounted the ascent, were out of ken for the present. Gilfillan, with the pedlar and the small party who were Waverley’s more immediate guard, were near the top of the ascent, and the remainder straggled after them at a considerable interval.

Such was the situation of matters when the pedlar, missing, as he said, a little doggie which belonged to him, began to halt and whistle for the animal. This signal, repeated more than once, gave offence to the rigour of his companion, the rather because it appeared to indicate inattention to the treasures of theological and controversial knowledge which were pouring out for his edification. He therefore signified gruffly that he could not waste his time in waiting for an useless cur.

‘But if your honour wad consider the case of Tobit — ’

‘Tobit!’ exclaimed Gilffflan, with great heat; ‘Tobit and his dog baith are altogether heathenish and apocryphal, and none but a prelatist or a papist would draw them into question. I doubt I hae been mista’en in you, friend.’

‘Very likely,’ answered the pedlar, with great composure; ‘but ne’ertheless, I shall take leave to whistle again upon puir Bawty.’

This last signal was answered in an unexpected manner; for six or eight stout Highlanders, who lurked among the copse and brushwood, sprung into the hollow way and began to lay about them with their claymores. Gilfillan, unappalled at this undesirable apparition, cried out manfully, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!’ and, drawing his broadsword, would probably have done as much credit to the good old cause as any of its doughty champions at Drumclog, when, behold! the pedlar, snatching a musket from the person who was next him bestowed the butt of it with such emphasis on the head of his late instructor in the Cameronian creed that he was forthwith levelled to the ground. In the confusion which ensued the horse which bore our hero was shot by one of Gilfillan’s party, as he discharged his firelock at random. Waverley fell with, and indeed under, the animal, and sustained some severe contusions. But he was almost instantly extricated from the fallen steed by two Highlanders, who, each seizing him by the arm, hurried him away from the scuffle and from the highroad. They ran with great speed, half supporting and half dragging our hero, who could, however, distinguish a few dropping shots fired about the spot which he had left. This, as he afterwards learned, proceeded from Gilfillan’s party, who had now assembled, the stragglers in front and rear having joined the others. At their approach the Highlanders drew off, but not before they had rifled Gilfillan and two of his people, who remained on the spot grievously wounded. A few shots were exchanged betwixt them and the Westlanders; but the latter, now without a commander, and apprehensive of a second ambush, did not make any serious effort to recover their prisoner, judging it more wise to proceed on their journey to Stirling, carrying with them their wounded captain and comrades.

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