Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXII

A Journey to London

Theamily at Fasthwaite were soon attached to Edward. He had, indeed, that gentleness and urbanity which almost universally attracts corresponding kindness; and to their simple ideas his learning gave him consequence, and his sorrows interest. The last he ascribed, evasively, to the loss of a brother in the skirmish near Clifton; and in that primitive state of society, where the ties of affection were highly deemed of, his continued depression excited sympathy, but not surprise.

In the end of January his more lively powers were called out by the happy union of Edward Williams, the son of his host, with Cicely Jopson. Our hero would not cloud with sorrow the festivity attending the wedding of two persons to whom he was so highly obliged. He therefore exerted himself, danced, sung, played at the various games of the day, and was the blithest of the company. The next morning, however, he had more serious matters to think of.

The clergyman who had married the young couple was so much pleased with the supposed student of divinity, that he came next day from Penrith on purpose to pay him a visit. This might have been a puzzling chapter had he entered into any examination of our hero’s supposed theological studies; but fortunately he loved better to hear and communicate the news of the day. He brought with him two or three old newspapers, in one of which Edward found a piece of intelligence that soon rendered him deaf to every word which the Reverend Mr. Twigtythe was saying upon the news from the north, and the prospect of the Duke’s speedily overtaking and crushing the rebels. This was an article in these, or nearly these words:—

‘Died at his house, in Hill Street, Berkeley Square, upon the 10th inst., Richard Waverley, Esq., second son of Sir Giles Waverley of Waverley-Honour, etc. etc. He died of a lingering disorder, augmented by the unpleasant predicament of suspicion in which he stood, having been obliged to find bail to a high amount to meet an impending accusation of high-treason. An accusation of the same grave crime hangs over his elder brother, Sir Everard Waverley, the representative of that ancient family; and we understand the day of his trial will be fixed early in the next month, unless Edward Waverley, son of the deceased Richard, and heir to the Baronet, shall surrender himself to justice. In that case we are assured it is his Majesty’s gracious purpose to drop further proceedings upon the charge against Sir Everard. This unfortunate young gentleman is ascertained to have been in arms in the Pretender’s service, and to have marched along with the Highland troops into England. But he has not been heard of since the skirmish at Clifton, on the 18th December last.’

Such was this distracting paragraph. ‘Good God!’ exclaimed Waverley, ‘am I then a parricide? Impossible! My father, who never showed the affection of a father while he lived, cannot have been so much affected by my supposed death as to hasten his own; no, I will not believe it, it were distraction to entertain for a moment such a horrible idea. But it were, if possible, worse than parricide to suffer any danger to hang over my noble and generous uncle, who has ever been more to me than a father, if such evil can be averted by any sacrifice on my part!’

While these reflections passed like the stings of scorpions through Waverley’s sensorium, the worthy divine was startled in a long disquisition on the battle of Falkirk by the ghastliness which they communicated to his looks, and asked him if he was ill? Fortunately the bride, all smirk and blush, had just entered the room. Mrs. Williams was none of the brightest of women, but she was good-natured, and readily concluding that Edward had been shocked by disagreeable news in the papers, interfered so judiciously, that, without exciting suspicion, she drew off Mr. Twigtythe’s attention, and engaged it until he soon after took his leave. Waverley then explained to his friends that he was under the necessity of going to London with as little delay as possible.

One cause of delay, however, did occur, to which Waverley had been very little accustomed. His purse, though well stocked when he first went to Tully-Veolan, had not been reinforced since that period; and although his life since had not been of a nature to exhaust it hastily, for he had lived chiefly with his friends or with the army, yet he found that, after settling with his kind landlord, he should be too poor to encounter the expense of travelling post. The best course, therefore, seemed to be to get into the great north road about Boroughbridge, and there take a place in the northern diligence, a huge old-fashioned tub, drawn by three horses, which completed the journey from Edinburgh to London (God willing, as the advertisement expressed it) in three weeks. Our hero, therefore, took an affectionate farewell of his Cumberland friends, whose kindness he promised never to forget, and tacitly hoped ene day to acknowledge by substantial proofs of gratitude. After some petty difficulties and vexatious delays, and after putting his dress into a shape better befitting his rank, though perfectly plain and simple, he accomplished crossing the country, and found himself in the desired vehicle vis-a-vis to Mrs. Nosebag, the lady of Lieutenant Nosebag, adjutant and riding- master of the — dragoons, a jolly woman of about fifty, wearing a blue habit, faced with scarlet, and grasping a silver-mounted horse-whip.

This lady was one of those active members of society who take upon them faire lefrais de la conversation. She had just returned from the north, and informed Edward how nearly her regiment had cut the petticoat people into ribands at Falkirk, ‘only somehow there was one of those nasty, awkward marshes, that they are never without in Scotland, I think, and so our poor dear little regiment suffered something, as my Nosebag says, in that unsatisfactory affair. You, sir, have served in the dragoons?’ Waverley was taken so much at unawares that he acquiesced.

‘O, I knew it at once; I saw you were military from your air, and I was sure you could be none of the foot-wobblers, as my Nosebag calls them. What regiment, pray?’ Here was a delightful question. Waverley, however, justly concluded that this good lady had the whole army-list by heart; and, to avoid detection by adhering to truth, answered, ‘Gardiner’s dragoons, ma’am; but I have retired some time.’

‘O aye, those as won the race at the battle of Preston, as my Nosebag says. Pray, sir, were you there?’

‘I was so unfortunate, madam,’ he replied, ‘as to witness that engagement.’

‘And that was a misfortune that few of Gardiner’s stood to witness, I believe, sir — ha! ha! ha! I beg your pardon; but a soldier’s wife loves a joke.’

‘Devil confound you,’ thought Waverley: ‘what infernal luck has penned me up with this inquisitive hag!’

Fortunately the good lady did not stick long to one subject. ‘We are coming to Ferrybridge now,’ she said, ‘where there was a party of OURS left to support the beadles, and constables, and justices, and these sort of creatures that are examining papers and stopping rebels, and all that.’ They were hardly in the inn before she dragged Waverley to the window, exclaiming, ‘Yonder comes Corporal Bridoon, of our poor dear troop; he’s coming with the constable man. Bridoon’s one of my lambs, as Nosebag calls ‘ern. Come, Mr. — a — a — pray, what’s your name, sir?’

‘Butler, ma’am,’ said Waverley, resolved rather to make free with the name of a former fellow-officer than run the risk of detection by inventing one not to be found in the regiment.

‘O, you got a troop lately, when that shabby fellow, Waverley, went over to the rebels? Lord, I wish our old cross Captain Crump would go over to the rebels, that Nosebag might get the troop! Lord, what can Bridoon be standing swinging on the bridge for? I’ll be hanged if he a’nt hazy, as Nosebag says. Come, sir, as you and I belong to the service, we’ll go put the rascal in mind of his duty.’

Waverley, with feelings more easily conceived than described, saw himself obliged to follow this doughty female commander. The gallant trooper was as like a lamb as a drunk corporal of dragoons, about six feet high, with very broad shoulders, and very thin legs, not to mention a great scar across his nose, could well be. Mrs. Nosebag addressed him with something which, if not an oath, sounded very like one, and commanded him to attend to his duty. ‘You be d — d for a — — ’ commenced the gallant cavalier; but, looking up in order to suit the action to the words, and also to enforce the epithet which he meditated with an adjective applicable to the party, he recognised the speaker, made his military salaam, and altered his tone. ‘Lord love your handsome face, Madam Nosebag, is it you? Why, if a poor fellow does happen to fire a slug of a morning, I am sure you were never the lady to bring him to harm.’

‘Well, you rascallion, go, mind your duty; this gentleman and I belong to the service; but be sure you look after that shy cock in the slouched hat that sits in the corner of the coach. I believe he’s one of the rebels in disguise.’

‘D— n her gooseberry wig,’ said the corporal, when she was out of hearing, ‘that gimlet-eyed jade — mother adjutant, as we call her — is a greater plague to the regiment than provost-marshal, sergeant-major, and old Hubble-de-Shuff, the colonel, into the bargain. Come, Master Constable, let’s see if this shy cock, as she calls him (who, by the way, was a Quaker from Leeds, with whom Mrs. Nosebag had had some tart argument on the legality of bearing arms), will stand godfather to a sup of brandy, for your Yorkshire ale is cold on my stomach.’

The vivacity of this good lady, as it helped Edward out of this scrape, was like to have drawn him into one or two others. In every town where they stopped she wished to examine the corps de garde, if there was one, and once very narrowly missed introducing Waverley to a recruiting-sergeant of his own regiment. Then she Captain’d and Butler’d him till he was almost mad with vexation and anxiety; and never was he more rejoiced in his life at the termination of a journey than when the arrival of the coach in London freed him from the attentions of Madam Nosebag.

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