Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXVIII

The March

It is not our purpose to intrude upon the province of history. We shall therefore only remind our readers that about the beginning of November the Young Chevalier, at the head of about six thousand men at the utmost, resolved to peril his cause on an attempt to penetrate into the centre of England, although aware of the mighty preparations which were made for his reception. They set forward on this crusade in weather which would have rendered any other troops incapable of marching, but which in reality gave these active mountaineers advantages over a less hardy enemy. In defiance of a superior army lying upon the Borders, under Field-Marshal Wade, they besieged and took Carlisle, and soon afterwards prosecuted their daring march to the southward.

As Colonel Mac-Ivor’s regiment marched in the van of the clans, he and Waverley, who now equalled any Highlander in the endurance of fatigue, and was become somewhat acquainted with their language, were perpetually at its head. They marked the progress of the army, however, with very different eyes. Fergus, all air and fire, and confident against the world in arms, measured nothing but that every step was a yard nearer London. He neither asked, expected, nor desired any aid except that of the clans to place the Stuarts once more on the throne; and when by chance a few adherents joined the standard, he always considered them in the light of new claimants upon the favours of the future monarch, who, he concluded, must therefore subtract for their gratification so much of the bounty which ought to be shared among his Highland followers.

Edward’s views were very different. He could not but observe that in those towns in which they proclaimed James the Third, ‘no man cried, God bless him.’ The mob stared and listened, heartless, stupefied, and dull, but gave few signs even of that boisterous spirit which induces them to shout upon all occasions for the mere exercise of their most sweet voices. The Jacobites had been taught to believe that the north-western counties abounded with wealthy squires and hardy yeomen, devoted to the cause of the White Rose. But of the wealthier Tories they saw little. Some fled from their houses, some feigned themselves sick, some surrendered themselves to the government as suspected persons. Of such as remained, the ignorant gazed with astonishment, mixed with horror and aversion, at the wild appearance, unknown language, and singular garb of the Scottish clans. And to the more prudent their scanty numbers, apparent deficiency in discipline, and poverty of equipment seemed certain tokens of the calamitous termination of their rash undertaking. Thus the few who joined them were such as bigotry of political principle blinded to consequences, or whose broken fortunes induced them to hazard all on a risk so desperate.

The Baron of Bradwardine, being asked what he thought of these recruits, took a long pinch of snuff, and answered drily,‘that he could not but have an excellent opinion of them, since they resembled precisely the followers who attached themselves to the good King David at the cave of Adullam — videlicet, every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, which the vulgate renders bitter of soul; and doubtless,’ he said, ‘they will prove mighty men of their hands, and there is much need that they should, for I have seen many a sour look cast upon us.’

But none of these considerations moved Fergus. He admired the luxuriant beauty of the country, and the situation of many of the seats which they passed. ‘Is Waverley-Honour like that house, Edward?’

‘It is one-half larger.’

‘Is your uncle’s park as fine a one as that?’

‘It is three times as extensive, and rather resembles a forest than a mere park.’

‘Flora will be a happy woman.’

‘I hope Miss Mac-Ivor will have much reason for happiness unconnected with Waverley-Honour.’

‘I hope so too; but to be mistress of such a place will be a pretty addition to the sum total.’

‘An addition, the want of which, I trust, will be amply supplied by some other means.’

‘How,’ said Fergus, stopping short and turning upon Waverley — ‘how am I to understand that, Mr. Waverley? Had I the pleasure to hear you aright?’

‘Perfectly right, Fergus.’

‘And am I to understand that you no longer desire my alliance and my sister’s hand?’

‘Your sister has refused mine,’ said Waverley, ‘both directly and by all the usual means by which ladies repress undesired attentions.’

‘I have no idea,’ answered the Chieftain, ‘of a lady dismissing or a gentleman withdrawing his suit, after it has been approved of by her legal guardian, without giving him an opportunity of talking the matter over with the lady. You did not, I suppose, expect my sister to drop into your mouth like a ripe plum the first moment you chose to open it?’

‘As to the lady’s title to dismiss her lover, Colonel,’ replied Edward, ‘it is a point which you must argue with her, as I am ignorant of the customs of the Highlands in that particular. But as to my title to acquiesce in a rejection from her without an appeal to your interest, I will tell you plainly, without meaning to undervalue Miss Mac-Ivor’s admitted beauty and accomplishments, that I would not take the hand of an angel, with an empire for her dowry, if her consent were extorted by the importunity of friends and guardians, and did not flow from her own free inclination.’

‘An angel, with the dowry of an empire,’ repeated Fergus, in a tone of bitter irony, ‘is not very likely to be pressed upon a —— shire squire. But, sir,’ changing his tone, ‘if Flora Mac-Ivor have not the dowry of an empire, she is MY sister; and that is sufficient at least to secure her against being treated with anything approaching to levity.’

‘She is Flora Mac-Ivor, sir,’ said Waverley, with firmness, ‘which to me, were I capable of treating ANY woman with levity, would be a more effectual protection.’

The brow of the Chieftain was now fully clouded; but Edward felt too indignant at the unreasonable tone which he had adopted to avert the storm by the least concession. They both stood still while this short dialogue passed, and Fergus seemed half disposed to say something more violent, but, by a strong effort, suppressed his passion, and, turning his face forward, walked sullenly on. As they had always hitherto walked together, and almost constantly side by side, Waverley pursued his course silently in the same direction, determined to let the Chief take his own time in recovering the good-humour which he had so unreasonably discarded, and firm in his resolution not to bate him an inch of dignity.

After they had marched on in this sullen manner about a mile, Fergus resumed the discourse in a different tone. ‘I believe I was warm, my dear Edward, but you provoke me with your want of knowledge of the world. You have taken pet at some of Flora’s prudery, or high-flying notions of loyalty, and now, like a child, you quarrel with the plaything you have been crying for, and beat me, your faithful keeper, because my arm cannot reach to Edinburgh to hand it to you. I am sure, if I was passionate, the mortification of losing the alliance of such a friend, after your arrangement had been the talk of both Highlands and Lowlands, and that without so much as knowing why or wherefore, might well provoke calmer blood than mine. I shall write to Edinburgh and put all to rights; that is, if you desire I should do so; as indeed I cannot suppose that your good opinion of Flora, it being such as you have often expressed to me, can be at once laid aside.’

‘Colonel Mac-Ivor,’ said Edward, who had no mind to be hurried farther or faster than he chose in a matter which he had already considered as broken off, ‘I am fully sensible of the value of your good offices; and certainly, by your zeal on my behalf in such an affair, you do me no small honour. But as Miss Mac-Ivor has made her election freely and voluntarily, and as all my attentions in Edinburgh were received with more than coldness, I cannot, in justice either to her or myself, consent that she should again be harassed upon this topic. I would have mentioned this to you some time since, but you saw the footing upon which we stood together, and must have understood it. Had I thought otherwise I would have earlier spoken; but I had a natural reluctance to enter upon a subject so painful to us both.’

‘O, very well, Mr. Waverley,’ said Fergus, haughtily, ‘the thing is at an end. I have no occasion to press my sister upon any man.’

‘Nor have I any occasion to court repeated rejection from the same young lady,’ answered Edward, in the same tone.

‘I shall make due inquiry, however,’ said the Chieftain, without noticing the interruption, ‘and learn what my sister thinks of all this, we will then see whether it is to end here.’

‘Respecting such inquiries, you will of course be guided by your own judgment,’ said Waverley. ‘It is, I am aware, impossible Miss Mac-Ivor can change her mind; and were such an unsupposable case to happen, it is certain I will not change mine. I only mention this to prevent any possibility of future misconstruction.’

Gladly at this moment would Mac-Ivor have put their quarrel to a personal arbitrement, his eye flashed fire, and he measured Edward as if to choose where he might best plant a mortal wound. But although we do not now quarrel according to the modes and figures of Caranza or Vincent Saviola, no one knew better than Fergus that there must be some decent pretext for a mortal duel. For instance, you may challenge a man for treading on your corn in a crowd, or for pushing you up to the wall, or for taking your seat in the theatre; but the modern code of honour will not permit you to found a quarrel upon your right of compelling a man to continue addresses to a female relative which the fair lady has already refused. So that Fergus was compelled to stomach this supposed affront until the whirligig of time, whose motion he promised himself he would watch most sedulously, should bring about an opportunity of revenge.

Waverley’s servant always led a saddle-horse for him in the rear of the battalion to which he was attached, though his master seldom rode. But now, incensed at the domineering and unreasonable conduct of his late friend, he fell behind the column and mounted his horse, resolving to seek the Baron of Bradwardine, and request permission to volunteer in his troop instead of the Mac-Ivor regiment.

‘A happy time of it I should have had,’ thought he, after he was mounted, ‘to have been so closely allied to this superb specimen of pride and self-opinion and passion. A colonel! why, he should have been a generalissimo. A petty chief of three or four hundred men! his pride might suffice for the Cham of Tartary — the Grand Seignior — the Great Mogul! I am well free of him. Were Flora an angel, she would bring with her a second Lucifer of ambition and wrath for a brother-in-law.’

The Baron, whose learning (like Sancho’s jests while in the Sierra Morena) seemed to grow mouldy for want of exercise, joyfully embraced the opportunity of Waverley’s offering his service in his regiment, to bring it into some exertion. The good-natured old gentleman, however, laboured to effect a reconciliation between the two quondam friends. Fergus turned a cold ear to his remonstrances, though he gave them a respectful hearing; and as for Waverley, he saw no reason why he should be the first in courting a renewal of the intimacy which the Chieftain had so unreasonably disturbed. The Baron then mentioned the matter to the Prince, who, anxious to prevent quarrels in his little army, declared he would himself remonstrate with Colonel Mac-Ivor on the unreasonableness of his conduct. But, in the hurry of their march, it was a day or two before he had an opportunity to exert his influence in the manner proposed.

In the meanwhile Waverley turned the instructions he had received while in Gardiner’s dragoons to some account, and assisted the Baron in his command as a sort of adjutant. ‘Parmi les aveugles un borgne est roi,’ says the French proverb; and the cavalry, which consisted chiefly of Lowland gentlemen, their tenants and servants, formed a high opinion of Waverley’s skill and a great attachment to his person. This was indeed partly owing to the satisfaction which they felt at the distinguished English volunteer’s leaving the Highlanders to rank among them; for there was a latent grudge between the horse and foot, not only owing to the difference of the services, but because most of the gentlemen, living near the Highlands, had at one time or other had quarrels with the tribes in their vicinity, and all of them looked with a jealous eye on the Highlanders’ avowed pretensions to superior valour and utility in the Prince’s service.

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