Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXI

Chapter of Accidents

Edward was in a most unpleasant and dangerous situation. He soon lost the sound of the bagpipes; and, what was yet more unpleasant, when, after searching long in vain and scrambling through many enclosures, he at length approached the highroad, he learned, from the unwelcome noise of kettledrums and trumpets, that the English cavalry now occupied it, and consequently were between him and the Highlanders. Precluded, therefore, from advancing in a straight direction, he resolved to avoid the English military and endeavour to join his friends by making a circuit to the left, for which a beaten path, deviating from the main road in that direction, seemed to afford facilities. The path was muddy and the night dark and cold; but even these inconveniences were hardly felt amidst the apprehensions which falling into the hands of the King’s forces reasonably excited in his bosom.

After walking about three miles, he at length reached a hamlet. Conscious that the common people were in general unfavourable to the cause he had espoused, yet desirous, if possible, to procure a horse and guide to Penrith, where he hoped to find the rear, if not the main body, of the Chevalier’s army, he approached the alehouse of the place. There was a great noise within; he paused to listen. A round English oath or two, and the burden of a campaign song, convinced him the hamlet also was occupied by the Duke of Cumberland’s soldiers. Endeavouring to retire from it as softly as possible, and blessing the obscurity which hitherto he had murmured against, Waverley groped his way the best he could along a small paling, which seemed the boundary of some cottage garden. As he reached the gate of this little enclosure, his outstretched hand was grasped by that of a female, whose voice at the same time uttered, ‘Edward, is’t thou, man?’

‘Here is some unlucky mistake,’ thought Edward, struggling, but gently, to disengage himself.

‘Naen o’ thy foun, now, man, or the red cwoats will hear thee; they hae been houlerying and poulerying every ane that past alehouse door this noight to make them drive their waggons and sick loike. Come into feyther’s, or they’ll do ho a mischief.’

‘A good hint,’ thought Waverley, following the girl through the little garden into a brick-paved kitchen, where she set herself to kindle a match at an expiring fire, and with the match to light a candle. She had no sooner looked on Edward than she dropped the light, with a shrill scream of ‘O feyther, feyther!’

The father, thus invoked, speedily appeared — a sturdy old farmer, in a pair of leather breeches, and boots pulled on without stockings, having just started from his bed; the rest of his dress was only a Westmoreland statesman’s robe-de-chambre — that is, his shirt. His figure was displayed to advantage by a candle which he bore in his left hand; in his right he brandished a poker.

‘What hast ho here, wench?’

‘O!’ cried the poor girl, almost going off in hysterics, ‘I thought it was Ned Williams, and it is one of the plaid-men.’

‘And what was thee ganging to do wi’ Ned Williams at this time o’ noight?’ To this, which was, perhaps, one of the numerous class of questions more easily asked than answered, the rosy-cheeked damsel made no reply, but continued sobbing and wringing her hands.

‘And thee, lad, dost ho know that the dragoons be a town? dost ho know that, mon? ad, they’ll sliver thee loike a turnip, mon.’

‘I know my life is in great danger,’ said Waverley, ‘but if you can assist me, I will reward you handsomely. I am no Scotchman, but an unfortunate English gentleman.’

‘Be ho Scot or no,’ said the honest farmer, ‘I wish thou hadst kept the other side of the hallan. But since thou art here, Jacob Jopson will betray no man’s bluid; and the plaids were gay canny, and did not do so much mischief when they were here yesterday.’ Accordingly, he set seriously about sheltering and refreshing our hero for the night. The fire was speedily rekindled, but with precaution against its light being seen from without. The jolly yeoman cut a rasher of bacon, which Cicely soon broiled, and her father added a swingeing tankard of his best ale. It was settled that Edward should remain there till the troops marched in the morning, then hire or buy a horse from the farmer, and, with the best directions that could be obtained, endeavour to overtake his friends. A clean, though coarse, bed received him after the fatigues of this unhappy day.

With the morning arrived the news that the Highlanders had evacuated Penrith, and marched off towards Carlisle; that the Duke of Cumberland was in possession of Penrith, and that detachments of his army covered the roads in every direction. To attempt to get through undiscovered would be an act of the most frantic temerity. Ned Williams (the right Edward) was now called to council by Cicely and her father. Ned, who perhaps did not care that his handsome namesake should remain too long in the same house with his sweetheart, for fear of fresh mistakes, proposed that Waverley, exchanging his uniform and plaid for the dress of the country, should go with him to his father’s farm near Ullswater, and remain in that undisturbed retirement until the military movements in the country should have ceased to render his departure hazardous. A price was also agreed upon, at which the stranger might board with Farmer Williams if he thought proper, till he could depart with safety. It was of moderate amount; the distress of his situation, among this honest and simple-hearted race, being considered as no reason for increasing their demand.

The necessary articles of dress were accordingly procured, and, by following by-paths known to the young farmer, they hoped to escape any unpleasant rencontre. A recompense for their hospitality was refused peremptorily by old Jopson and his cherry-cheeked daughter; a kiss paid the one and a hearty shake of the hand the other. Both seemed anxious for their guest’s safety, and took leave of him with kind wishes.

In the course of their route Edward, with his guide, traversed those fields which the night before had been the scene of action. A brief gleam of December’s sun shone sadly on the broad heath, which, towards the spot where the great north-west road entered the enclosures of Lord Lonsdale’s property, exhibited dead bodies of men and horses, and the usual companions of war, a number of carrion-crows, hawks, and ravens.

‘And this, then, was thy last field,’ said Waverley to himself, his eye filling at the recollection of the many splendid points of Fergus’s character, and of their former intimacy, all his passions and imperfections forgotten — ‘here fell the last Vich Ian Vohr, on a nameless heath; and in an obscure night-skirmish was quenched that ardent spirit, who thought it little to cut a way for his master to the British throne! Ambition, policy, bravery, all far beyond their sphere, here learned the fate of mortals. The sole support, too, of a sister whose spirit, as proud and unbending, was even more exalted than thine own; here ended all thy hopes for Flora, and the long and valued line which it was thy boast to raise yet more highly by thy adventurous valour!’

As these ideas pressed on Waverley’s mind, he resolved to go upon the open heath and search if, among the slain, he could discover the body of his friend, with the pious intention of procuring for him the last rites of sepulture. The timorous young man who accompanied him remonstrated upon the danger of the attempt, but Edward was determined. The followers of the camp had already stripped the dead of all they could carry away; but the country people, unused to scenes of blood, had not yet approached the field of action, though some stood fearfully gazing at a distance. About sixty or seventy dragoons lay slain within the first enclosure, upon the highroad, and on the open moor. Of the Highlanders, not above a dozen had fallen, chiefly those who, venturing too far on the moor, could not regain the strong ground. He could not find the body of Fergus among the slain. On a little knoll, separated from the others, lay the carcasses of three English dragoons, two horses, and the page Callum Beg, whose hard skull a trooper’s broadsword had, at length, effectually cloven. It was possible his clan had carried off the body of Fergus; but it was also possible he had escaped, especially as Evan Dhu, who would never leave his Chief, was not found among the dead; or he might be prisoner, and the less formidable denunciation inferred from the appearance of the Bodach Glas might have proved the true one. The approach of a party sent for the purpose of compelling the country people to bury the dead, and who had already assembled several peasants for that purpose, now obliged Edward to rejoin his guide, who awaited him in great anxiety and fear under shade of the plantations.

After leaving this field of death, the rest of their journey was happily accomplished. At the house of Farmer Williams, Edward passed for a young kinsman, educated for the church, who was come to reside there till the civil tumults permitted him to pass through the country. This silenced suspicion among the kind and simple yeomanry of Cumberland, and accounted sufficiently for the grave manners and retired habits of the new guest. The precaution became more necessary than Waverley had anticipated, as a variety of incidents prolonged his stay at Fasthwaite, as the farm was called.

A tremendous fall of snow rendered his departure impossible for more than ten days. When the roads began to become a little practicable, they successively received news of the retreat of the Chevalier into Scotland; then, that he had abandoned the frontiers, retiring upon Glasgow; and that the Duke of Cumberland had formed the siege of Carlisle. His army, therefore, cut off all possibility of Waverley’s escaping into Scotland in that direction. On the eastern border Marshal Wade, with a large force, was advancing upon Edinburgh; and all along the frontier, parties of militia, volunteers, and partizans were in arms to suppress insurrection, and apprehend such stragglers from the Highland army as had been left in England. The surrender of Carlisle, and the severity with which the rebel garrison were threatened, soon formed an additional reason against venturing upon a solitary and hopeless journey through a hostile country and a large army, to carry the assistance of a single sword to a cause which seemed altogether desperate. In this lonely and secluded situation, without the advantage of company or conversation with men of cultivated minds, the arguments of Colonel Talbot often recurred to the mind of our hero. A still more anxious recollection haunted his slumbers — it was the dying look and gesture of Colonel Gardiner. Most devoutly did he hope, as the rarely occurring post brought news of skirmishes with various success, that it might never again be his lot to draw his sword in civil conflict. Then his mind turned to the supposed death of Fergus, to the desolate situation of Flora, and, with yet more tender recollection, to that of Rose Bradwardine, who was destitute of the devoted enthusiasm of loyalty, which to her friend hallowed and exalted misfortune. These reveries he was permitted to enjoy, undisturbed by queries or interruption; and it was in many a winter walk by the shores of Ullswater that he acquired a more complete mastery of a spirit tamed by adversity than his former experience had given him; and that he felt himself entitled to say firmly, though perhaps with a sigh, that the romance of his life was ended, and that its real history had now commenced. He was soon called upon to justify his pretensions by reason and philosophy.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter60.html

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