Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XIII

A Soldier’s Dinner

James of the Needle was a man of his word when whisky was no party to the contract; and upon this occasion Callum Beg, who still thought himself in Waverley’s debt, since he had declined accepting compensation at the expense of mine host of the Candlestick’s person, took the opportunity of discharging the obligation, by mounting guard over the hereditary tailor of Sliochd nan Ivor; and, as he expressed himself, ‘targed him tightly’ till the finishing of the job. To rid himself of this restraint, Shemus’s needle flew through the tartan like lightning; and as the artist kept chanting some dreadful skirmish of Fin Macoul, he accomplished at least three stitches to the death of every hero. The dress was, therefore, soon ready, for the short coat fitted the wearer, and the rest of the apparel required little adjustment.

Our hero having now fairly assumed the ‘garb of old Gaul,’ well calculated as it was to give an appearance of strength to a figure which, though tall and well-made, was rather elegant than robust, I hope my fair readers will excuse him if he looked at himself in the mirror more than once, and could not help acknowledging that the reflection seemed that of a very handsome young fellow. In fact, there was no disguising it. His light-brown hair — for he wore no periwig, notwithstanding the universal fashion of the time — became the bonnet which surmounted it. His person promised firmness and agility, to which the ample folds of the tartan added an air of dignity. His blue eye seemed of that kind,

Which melted in love, and which kindled in war;

and an air of bashfulness, which was in reality the effect of want of habitual intercourse with the world, gave interest to his features, without injuring their grace or intelligence.

‘He’s a pratty man, a very pratty man,’ said Evan Dhu (now Ensign Maccombich) to Fergus’s buxom landlady.

‘He’s vera weel,’ said the Widow Flockhart, ‘but no naething sae weel-far’d as your colonel, ensign.’

‘I wasna comparing them,’ quoth Evan, ‘nor was I speaking about his being weel-favoured; but only that Mr. Waverley looks clean-made and deliver, and like a proper lad o’ his quarters, that will not cry barley in a brulzie. And, indeed, he’s gleg aneuch at the broadsword and target. I hae played wi’ him mysell at Glennaquoich, and sae has Vich lan Vohr, often of a Sunday afternoon.’

‘Lord forgie ye, Ensign Maccombich,’ said the alarmed Presbyterian; ‘I’m sure the colonel wad never do the like o’ that!’

‘Hout! hout! Mrs. Flockhart,’ replied the ensign, ‘we’re young blude, ye ken; and young saints, auld deils.’

‘But will ye fight wi’ Sir John Cope the morn, Ensign Maccombich?’ demanded Mrs. Flockhart of her guest.

‘Troth I’se ensure him, an he’ll bide us, Mrs. Flockhart,’ replied the Gael.

‘And will ye face thae tearing chields, the dragoons, Ensign Maccombich?’ again inquired the landlady.

‘Claw for claw, as Conan said to Satan, Mrs. Flockhart, and the deevil tak the shortest nails.’

‘And will the colonel venture on the bagganets himsell?’

‘Ye may swear it, Mrs. Flockhart; the very first man will he be, by Saint Phedar.’

‘Merciful goodness! and if he’s killed amang the redcoats!’ exclaimed the soft-hearted widow.

‘Troth, if it should sae befall, Mrs. Flockhart, I ken ane that will no be living to weep for him. But we maun a’ live the day, and have our dinner; and there’s Vich lan Vohr has packed his dorlach, and Mr. Waverley’s wearied wi’ majoring yonder afore the muckle pier-glass; and that grey auld stoor carle, the Baron o’ Bradwardine that shot young Ronald of Ballenkeiroch, he’s coming down the close wi’ that droghling coghling bailie body they ca’ Macwhupple, just like the Laird o’ Kittlegab’s French cook, wi’ his turnspit doggie trindling ahint him, and I am as hungry as a gled, my bonny dow; sae bid Kate set on the broo’, and do ye put on your pinners, for ye ken Vich lan Vohr winna sit down till ye be at the head o’ the table; — and dinna forget the pint bottle o’ brandy, my woman.’

This hint produced dinner. Mrs. Flockhart, smiling in her weeds like the sun through a mist, took the head of the table, thinking within herself, perhaps, that she cared not how long the rebellion lasted that brought her into company so much above her usual associates. She was supported by Waverley and the Baron, with the advantage of the Chieftain vis-a-vis. The men of peace and of war, that is, Bailie Macwheeble and Ensign Maccombich, after many profound conges to their superiors and each other, took their places on each side of the Chieftain. Their fare was excellent, time, place, and circumstances considered, and Fergus’s spirits were extravagantly high. Regardless of danger, and sanguine from temper, youth, and ambition, he saw in imagination all his prospects crowned with success, and was totally indifferent to the probable alternative of a soldier’s grave. The Baron apologized slightly for bringing Macwheeble. They had been providing, he said, for the expenses of the campaign. ‘And, by my faith,’ said the old man, ‘as I think this will be my last, so I just end where I began: I hae evermore found the sinews of war, as a learned author calls the caisse mttitaire, mair difficult to come by than either its flesh, blood, or bones.’

‘What! have you raised our only efficient body of cavalry and got ye none of the louis-d’or out of the Doutelle 77 to help you?’

‘No, Glennaquoich; cleverer fellows have been before me.’

‘That’s a scandal,’ said the young Highlander; ‘but you will share what is left of my subsidy; it will save you an anxious thought tonight, and will be all one tomorrow, for we shall all be provided for, one way or other, before the sun sets.’ Waverley, blushing deeply, but with great earnestness, pressed the same request.

‘I thank ye baith, my good lads,’ said the Baron, ‘but I will not infringe upon your peculium. Bailie Macwheeble has provided the sum which is necessary.’

Here the Bailie shifted and fidgeted about in his seat, and appeared extremely uneasy. At length, after several preliminary hems, and much tautological expression of his devotion to his honour’s service, by night or day, living or dead, he began to insinuate, ‘that the banks had removed a’ their ready cash into the Castle; that, nae doubt, Sandie Goldie, the silversmith, would do mickle for his honour; but there was little time to get the wadset made out; and, doubtless, if his honour Glennaquoich or Mr. Wauverley could accommodate — ’

‘Let me hear of no such nonsense, sir,’ said the Baron, in a tone which rendered Macwheeble mute, ‘but proceed as we accorded before dinner, if it be your wish to remain in my service.’

To this peremptory order the Bailie, though he felt as if condemned to suffer a transfusion of blood from his own veins into those of the Baron, did not presume to make any reply. After fidgeting a little while longer, however, he addressed himself to Glennaquoich, and told him, if his honour had mair ready siller than was sufficient for his occasions in the field, he could put it out at use for his honour in safe hands and at great profit at this time.

At this proposal Fergus laughed heartily, and answered, when he had recovered his breath — ‘Many thanks, Bailie; but you must know, it is a general custom among us soldiers to make our landlady our banker. Here, Mrs. Flockhart,’ said he, taking four or five broad pieces out of a well-filled purse and tossing the purse itself, with its remaining contents, into her apron, ‘these will serve my occasions; do you take the rest. Be my banker if I live, and my executor if I die; but take care to give something to the Highland cailliachs78 that shall cry the coronach loudest for the last Vich lan Vohr.’

‘It is the testamentum militare,’ quoth the Baron, ‘whilk, amang the Romans, was privilegiate to be nuncupative.’ But the soft heart of Mrs. Flockhart was melted within her at the Chieftain’s speech; she set up a lamentable blubbering, and positively refused to touch the bequest, which Fergus was therefore obliged to resume.

‘Well, then,’ said the Chief, ‘if I fall, it will go to the grenadier that knocks my brains out, and I shall take care he works hard for it.’

Bailie Macwheeble was again tempted to put in his oar; for where cash was concerned he did not willingly remain silent. ‘Perhaps he had better carry the gowd to Miss Mac-Ivor, in case of mortality or accidents of war. It might tak the form of a mortis causa donation in the young leddie’s favour, and — wad cost but the scrape of a pen to mak it out.’

‘The young lady,’ said Fergus,‘should such an event happen, will have other matters to think of than these wretched louis-d’or.’

‘True — undeniable — there’s nae doubt o’ that; but your honour kens that a full sorrow — ’

‘Is endurable by most folk more easily than a hungry one? True, Bailie, very true; and I believe there may even be some who would be consoled by such a reflection for the loss of the whole existing generation. But there is a sorrow which knows neither hunger nor thirst; and poor Flora — ’ He paused, and the whole company sympathised in his emotion.

The Baron’s thoughts naturally reverted to the unprotected state of his daughter, and the big tear came to the veteran’s eye. ‘If I fall, Macwheeble, you have all my papers and know all my affairs; be just to Rose.’

The Bailie was a man of earthly mould, after all; a good deal of dirt and dross about him, undoubtedly, but some kindly and just feelings he had, especially where the Baron or his young mistress were concerned. He set up a lamentable howl. ‘If that doleful day should come, while Duncan Macwheeble had a boddle it should be Miss Rose’s. He wald scroll for a plack the sheet or she kenn’d what it was to want; if indeed a’ the bonnie baronie o’ Bradwardine and Tully-Veolan, with the fortalice and manor-place thereof (he kept sobbing and whining at every pause), tofts, crofts, mosses, muirs — outfield, infield — buildings — orchards — dove-cots — with the right of net and coble in the water and loch of Veolan — teinds, parsonage and vicarage — annexis, connexis — rights of pasturage — feul, feal and divot — parts, pendicles, and pertinents whatsoever — (here he had recourse to the end of his long cravat to wipe his eyes, which overflowed, in spite of him, at the ideas which this technical jargon conjured up) — all as more fully described in the proper evidents and titles thereof — and lying within the parish of Bradwardine and the shire of Perth — if, as aforesaid, they must a’ pass from my master’s child to Inch-Grabbit, wha’s a Whig and a Hanoverian, and be managed by his doer, Jamie Howie, wha’s no fit to be a birlieman, let be a bailie — ’

The beginning of this lamentation really had something affecting, but the conclusion rendered laughter irresistible. ‘Never mind, Bailie,’ said Ensign Maccombich, ‘for the gude auld times of rugging and riving (pulling and tearing) are come back again, an’ Sneckus Mac-Snackus (meaning, probably, annexis, connexis), and a’ the rest of your friends, maun gie place to the langest claymore.’

‘And that claymore shall be ours, Bailie,’ said the Chieftain, who saw that Macwheeble looked very blank at this intimation.

‘We’ll give them the metal our mountain affords,

Lillibulero, bullen a la,

And in place of broad-pieces, we’ll pay with broadswords,

Lero, lero, etc.

With duns and with debts we will soon clear our score,

Lillibulero, etc.

For the man that’s thus paid will crave payment no more,

Lero, lero, etc. 79

But come, Bailie, be not cast down; drink your wine with a joyous heart; the Baron shall return safe and victorious to Tully-Veolan, and unite Killancureit’s lairdship with his own, since the cowardly half-bred swine will not turn out for the Prince like a gentleman.’

‘To be sure, they lie maist ewest,’ said the Bailie, wiping his eyes, ‘and should naturally fa’ under the same factory.’

‘And I,’ proceeded the Chieftain,‘shall take care of myself, too; for you must know, I have to complete a good work here, by bringing Mrs. Flockhart into the bosom of the Catholic church, or at least half way, and that is to your Episcopal meeting-house. O Baron! if you heard her fine counter-tenor admonishing Kate and Matty in the morning, you, who understand music, would tremble at the idea of hearing her shriek in the psalmody of Haddo’s Hole.’

‘Lord forgie you, colonel, how ye rin on! But I hope your honours will tak tea before ye gang to the palace, and I maun gang and mask it for you.’

So saying, Mrs. Flockhart left the gentlemen to their own conversation, which, as might be supposed, turned chiefly upon the approaching events of the campaign.

77 The Doutelle was an armed vessel which brought a small supply of money and arms from France for the use of the insurgents.

78 Old women, on whom devolved the duty of lamenting for the dead, which the Irish call keening.

79 These lines, or something like them, occur in an old magazine of the period.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter42.html

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