Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXIII

What’s to Be Done Next?

Itwas twilight when they arrived in town; and having shaken off his companions, and walked through a good many streets to avoid the possibility of being traced by them, Edward took a hackney-coach and drove to Colonel Talbot’s house, in one of the principal squares at the west end of the town. That gentleman, by the death of relations, had succeeded since his marriage to a large fortune, possessed considerable political interest, and lived in what is called great style.

When Waverley knocked at his door he found it at first difficult to procure admittance, but at length was shown into an apartment where the Colonel was at table. Lady Emily, whose very beautiful features were still pallid from indisposition, sate opposite to him. The instant he heard Waverley’s voice, he started up and embraced him. ‘Frank Stanley, my dear boy, how d’ye do? Emily, my love, this is young Stanley.’

The blood started to the lady’s cheek as she gave Waverley a reception in which courtesy was mingled with kindness, while her trembling hand and faltering voice showed how much she was startled and discomposed. Dinner was hastily replaced, and while Waverley was engaged in refreshing himself, the Colonel proceeded — ‘I wonder you have come here, Frank; the Doctors tell me the air of London is very bad for your complaints. You should not have risked it. But I am delighted to see you, and so is Emily, though I fear we must not reckon upon your staying long.’

‘Some particular business brought me up,’ muttered Waverley.

‘I supposed so, but I shan’t allow you to stay long. Spontoon’ (to an elderly military-looking servant out of livery),‘take away these things, and answer the bell yourself, if I ring. Don’t let any of the other fellows disturb us. My nephew and I have business to talk of.’

When the servants had retired, ‘In the name of God, Waverley, what has brought you here? It may be as much as your life is worth.’

‘Dear Mr. Waverley,’ said Lady Emily, ‘to whom I owe so much more than acknowledgments can ever pay, how could you be so rash?’

‘My father — my uncle — this paragraph,’ — he handed the paper to Colonel Talbot.

‘I wish to Heaven these scoundrels were condemned to be squeezed to death in their own presses,’ said Talbot. ‘I am told there are not less than a dozen of their papers now published in town, and no wonder that they are obliged to invent lies to find sale for their journals. It is true, however, my dear Edward, that you have lost your father; but as to this flourish of his unpleasant situation having grated upon his spirits and hurt his health — the truth is — for though it is harsh to say so now, yet it will relieve your mind from the idea of weighty responsibility — the truth then is, that Mr. Richard Waverley, through this whole business, showed great want of sensibility, both to your situation and that of your uncle; and the last time I saw him, he told me, with great glee, that, as I was so good as to take charge of your interests, he had thought it best to patch up a separate negotiation for himself, and make his peace with government through some channels which former connexions left still open to him.’

‘And my uncle, my dear uncle?’

‘Is in no danger whatever. It is true (looking at the date of the paper) there was a foolish report some time ago to the purport here quoted, but it is entirely false. Sir Everard is gone down to Waverley-Honour, freed from all uneasiness, unless upon your own account. But you are in peril yourself; your name is in every proclamation; warrants are out to apprehend you. How and when did you come here?’

Edward told his story at length, suppressing his quarrel with Fergus; for, being himself partial to Highlanders, he did not wish to give any advantage to the Colonel’s national prejudice against them.

‘Are you sure it was your friend Glen’s foot-boy you saw dead in Clifton Moor?’

‘Quite positive.’

‘Then that little limb of the devil has cheated the gallows, for cut-throat was written in his face; though (turning to Lady Emily) it was a very handsome face too. But for you, Edward, I wish you would go down again to Cumberland, or rather I wish you had never stirred from thence, for there is an embargo in all the seaports, and a strict search for the adherents of the Pretender; and the tongue of that confounded woman will wag in her head like the clack of a mill, till somehow or other she will detect Captain Butler to be a feigned personage.’

‘Do you know anything,’ asked Waverley, ‘of my fellow-traveller?’

‘Her husband was my sergeant-major for six years; she was a buxom widow, with a little money; he married her, was steady, and got on by being a good drill. I must send Spontoon to see what she is about; he will find her out among the old regimental connections. To-morrow you must be indisposed, and keep your room from fatigue. Lady Emily is to be your nurse, and Spontoon and I your attendants. You bear the name of a near relation of mine, whom none of my present people ever saw, except Spontoon, so there will be no immediate danger. So pray feel your head ache and your eyes grow heavy as soon as possible, that you may be put upon the sick- list; and, Emily, do you order an apartment for Frank Stanley, with all the attentions which an invalid may require.’

In the morning the Colonel visited his guest. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘I have some good news for you. Your reputation as a gentleman and officer is effectually cleared of neglect of duty and accession to the mutiny in Gardiner’s regiment. I have had a correspondence on this subject with a very zealous friend of yours, your Scottish parson, Morton; his first letter was addressed to Sir Everard; but I relieved the good Baronet of the trouble of answering it. You must know, that your free-booting acquaintance, Donald of the Cave, has at length fallen into the hands of the Philistines. He was driving off the cattle of a certain proprietor, called Killan — something or other — ’

‘Killancureit?’

‘The same. Now the gentleman being, it seems, a great farmer, and having a special value for his breed of cattle, being, moreover, rather of a timid disposition, had got a party of soldiers to protect his property. So Donald ran his head unawares into the lion’s mouth, and was defeated and made prisoner. Being ordered for execution, his conscience was assailed on the one hand by a Catholic priest, on the other by your friend Morton. He repulsed the Catholic chiefly on account of the doctrine of extreme unction, which this economical gentleman considered as an excessive waste of oil. So his conversion from a state of impenitence fell to Mr. Morton’s share, who, I daresay, acquitted himself excellently, though I suppose Donald made but a queer kind of Christian after all. He confessed, however, before a magistrate, one Major Melville, who seems to have been a correct, friendly sort of person, his full intrigue with Houghton, explaining particularly how it was carried on, and fully acquitting you of the least accession to it. He also mentioned his rescuing you from the hands of the volunteer officer, and sending you, by orders of the Pret — Chevalier, I mean — as a prisoner to Doune, from whence he understood you were carried prisoner to Edinburgh. These are particulars which cannot but tell in your favour. He hinted that he had been employed to deliver and protect you, and rewarded for doing so; but he would not confess by whom, alleging that, though he would not have minded breaking any ordinary oath to satisfy the curiosity of Mr. Morton, to whose pious admonitions he owed so much, yet, in the present case he had been sworn to silence upon the edge of his dirk,94 which, it seems, constituted, in his opinion, an inviolable obligation.’

‘And what is become of him?’

‘Oh, he was hanged at Stirling after the rebels raised the siege, with his lieutenant and four plaids besides; he having the advantage of a gallows more lofty than his friends.’

‘Well, I have little cause either to regret or rejoice at his death; and yet he has done me both good and harm to a very considerable extent.’

‘His confession, at least, will serve you materially, since it wipes from your character all those suspicions which gave the accusation against you a complexion of a nature different from that with which so many unfortunate gentlemen, now or lately in arms against the government, may be justly charged. Their treason — I must give it its name, though you participate in its guilt — is an action arising from mistaken virtue, and therefore cannot be classed as a disgrace, though it be doubtless highly criminal. Where the guilty are so numerous, clemency must be extended to far the greater number; and I have little doubt of procuring a remission for you, providing we can keep you out of the claws of justice till she has selected and gorged upon her victims; for in this, as in other cases, it will be according to the vulgar proverb, “First come, first served.” Besides, government are desirous at present to intimidate the English Jacobites, among whom they can find few examples for punishment. This is a vindictive and timid feeling which will soon wear off, for of all nations the English are least blood-thirsty by nature. But it exists at present, and you must therefore be kept out of the way in the mean-time.’

Now entered Spontoon with an anxious countenance. By his regimental acquaintances he had traced out Madam Nosebag, and found her full of ire, fuss, and fidget at discovery of an impostor who had travelled from the north with her under the assumed name of Captain Butler of Gardiner’s dragoons. She was going to lodge an information on the subject, to have him sought for as an emissary of the Pretender; but Spontoon (an old soldier), while he pretended to approve, contrived to make her delay her intention. No time, however, was to be lost: the accuracy of this good dame’s description might probably lead to the discovery that Waverley was the pretended Captain Butler, an identification fraught with danger to Edward, perhaps to his uncle, and even to Colonel Talbot. Which way to direct his course was now, therefore, the question.

‘To Scotland,’ said Waverley.

‘To Scotland?’ said the Colonel; ‘with what purpose? not to engage again with the rebels, I hope?’

‘No; I considered my campaign ended when, after all my efforts, I could not rejoin them; and now, by all accounts, they are gone to make a winter campaign in the Highlands, where such adherents as I am would rather be burdensome than useful. Indeed, it seems likely that they only prolong the war to place the Chevalier’s person out of danger, and then to make some terms for themselves. To burden them with my presence would merely add another party, whom they would not give up and could not defend. I understand they left almost all their English adherents in garrison at Carlisle, for that very reason. And on a more general view, Colonel, to confess the truth, though it may lower me in your opinion, I am heartly tired of the trade of war, and am, as Fletcher’s Humorous Lieutenant says, “even as weary of this fighting-’”

‘Fighting! pooh, what have you seen but a skirmish or two? Ah! if you saw war on the grand scale — sixty or a hundred thousand men in the field on each side!’

‘I am not at all curious, Colonel. “Enough,” says our homely proverb, “is as good as a feast.” The plumed troops and the big war used to enchant me in poetry, but the night marches, vigils, couches under the wintry sky, and such accompaniments of the glorious trade, are not at all to my taste in practice; then for dry blows, I had MY fill of fighting at Clifton, where I escaped by a hair’s-breadth half a dozen times; and you, I should think — ’ He stopped.

‘Had enough of it at Preston? you mean to say,’ answered the Colonel, laughing; ‘but ’tis my vocation, Hal.’

‘It is not mine, though,’ said Waverley; ‘and having honourably got rid of the sword, which I drew only as a volunteer, I am quite satisfied with my military experience, and shall be in no hurry to take it up again.’

‘I am very glad you are of that mind; but then what would you do in the north?’

‘In the first place, there are some seaports on the eastern coast of Scotland still in the hands of the Chevalier’s friends; should I gain any of them, I can easily embark for the Continent.’

‘Good, your second reason?’

‘Why, to speak the very truth, there is a person in Scotland upon whom I now find my happiness depends more than I was always aware, and about whose situation I am very anxious.’

‘Then Emily was right, and there is a love affair in the case after all? And which of these two pretty Scotchwomen, whom you insisted upon my admiring, is the distinguished fair? not Miss Glen — I hope.’

‘No.’

‘Ah, pass for the other; simplicity may be improved, but pride and conceit never. Well, I don’t discourage you; I think it will please Sir Everard, from what he said when I jested with him about it; only I hope that intolerable papa, with his brogue, and his snuff, and his Latin, and his insufferable long stories about the Duke of Berwick, will find it necessary hereafter to be an inhabitant of foreign parts. But as to the daughter, though I think you might find as fitting a match in England, yet if your heart be really set upon this Scotch rosebud, why the Baronet has a great opinion of her father and of his family, and he wishes much to see you married and settled, both for your own sake and for that of the three ermines passant, which may otherwise pass away altogether. But I will bring you his mind fully upon the subject, since you are debarred correspondence for the present, for I think you will not be long in Scotland before me.’

‘Indeed! and what can induce you to think of returning to Scotland? No relenting longings towards the land of mountains and floods, I am afraid.’

‘None, on my word; but Emily’s health is now, thank God, reestablished, and, to tell you the truth, I have little hopes of concluding the business which I have at present most at heart until I can have a personal interview with his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief; for, as Fluellen says, “the duke doth love me well, and I thank heaven I have deserved some love at his hands.” I am now going out for an hour or two to arrange matters for your departure; your liberty extends to the next room, Lady Emily’s parlour, where you will find her when you are disposed for music, reading, or conversation. We have taken measures to exclude all servants but Spontoon, who is as true as steel.’

In about two hours Colonel Talbot returned, and found his young friend conversing with his lady; she pleased with his manners and information, and he delighted at being restored, though but for a moment, to the society of his own rank, from which he had been for some time excluded.

‘And now,’ said the Colonel, ‘hear my arrangements, for there is little time to lose. This youngster, Edward Waverley, alias Williams, alias Captain Butler, must continue to pass by his fourth ALIAS of Francis Stanley, my nephew; he shall set out to-morrow for the North, and the chariot shall take him the first two stages. Spontoon shall then attend him; and they shall ride post as far as Huntingdon; and the presence of Spontoon, well known on the road as my servant, will check all disposition to inquiry. At Huntingdon you will meet the real Frank Stanley. He is studying at Cambridge; but, a little while ago, doubtful if Emily’s health would permit me to go down to the North myself, I procured him a passport from the secretary of state’s office to go in my stead. As he went chiefly to look after you, his journey is now unnecessary. He knows your story; you will dine together at Huntingdon; and perhaps your wise heads may hit upon some plan for removing or diminishing the danger of your farther progress north-ward. And now (taking out a morocco case), let me put you in funds for the campaign.’

‘I am ashamed, my dear Colonel — ’

‘Nay,’ said Colonel Talbot, ‘you should command my purse in any event; but this money is your own. Your father, considering the chance of your being attainted, left me his trustee for your advantage. So that you are worth above £15,000, besides Brere-Wood Lodge — a very independent person, I promise you. There are bills here for £200; any larger sum you may have, or credit abroad, as soon as your motions require it.’

The first use which occurred to Waverley of his newly acquired wealth was to write to honest Farmer Jopson, requesting his acceptance of a silver tankard on the part of his friend Williams, who had not forgotten the night of the eighteenth December last. He begged him at the same time carefully to preserve for him his Highland garb and accoutrements, particularly the arms, curious in themselves, and to which the friendship of the donors gave additional value. Lady Emily undertook to find some suitable token of remembrance likely to flatter the vanity and please the taste of Mrs. Williams; and the Colonel, who was a kind of farmer, promised to send the Ullswater patriarch an excellent team of horses for cart and plough.

One happy day Waverley spent in London; and, travelling in the manner projected, he met with Frank Stanley at Huntingdon. The two young men were acquainted in a minute.

‘I can read my uncle’s riddle,’ said Stanley;‘the cautious old soldier did not care to hint to me that I might hand over to you this passport, which I have no occasion for; but if it should afterwards come out as the rattle-pated trick of a young Cantab, cela ne tire a rien. You are therefore to be Francis Stanley, with this passport.’ This proposal appeared in effect to alleviate a great part of the difficulties which Edward must otherwise have encountered at every turn; and accordingly he scrupled not to avail himself of it, the more especially as he had discarded all political purposes from his present journey, and could not be accused of furthering machinations against the government while travelling under protection of the secretary’s passport.

The day passed merrily away. The young student was inquisitive about Waverley’s campaigns, and the manners of the Highlands, and Edward was obliged to satisfy his curiosity by whistling a pibroch, dancing a strathspey, and singing a Highland song. The next morning Stanley rode a stage northward with his new friend, and parted from him with great reluctance, upon the remonstrances of Spontoon, who, accustomed to submit to discipline, was rigid in enforcing it.

94 As the heathen deities contracted an indelible obligation if they swore by Styx, the Scottish Highlanders had usually some peculiar solemnity attached to an oath which they intended should be binding on them. Very frequently it consisted in laying their hand, as they swore, on their own drawn dirk; which dagger, becoming a party to the transaction, was invoked to punish any breach of faith. But by whatever ritual the oath was sanctioned, the party was extremely desirous to keep secret what the especial oath was which he considered as irrevocable. This was a matter of great convenience, as he felt no scruple in breaking his asseveration when made in any other form than that which he accounted as peculiarly solemn; and therefore readily granted any engagement which bound him no longer than he inclined. Whereas, if the oath which he accounted inviolable was once publicly known, no party with whom he might have occasion to contract would have rested satisfied with any other.

Louis XI of France practised the same sophistry, for he also had a peculiar species of oath, the only one which he was ever known to respect, and which, therefore, he was very unwilling to pledge. The only engagement which that wily tyrant accounted binding upon him was an oath by the Holy Cross of Saint Lo d’Angers, which contained a portion of the True Cross. If he prevaricated after taking this oath Louis believed he should die within the year. The Constable Saint Paul, being invited to a personal conference with Louis, refused to meet the king unless he would agree to ensure him safe conduct under sanction of this oath. But, says Comines, the king replied, he would never again pledge that engagement to mortal man, though he was willing to take any other oath which could be devised. The treaty broke oft, therefore, after much chaffering concerning the nature of the vow which Louis was to take. Such is the difference between the dictates of superstition and those of conscience.

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