Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXIV

Desolation

Waverley riding post, as was the usual fashion of the period, without any adventure save one or two queries, which the talisman of his passport sufficiently answered, reached the borders of Scotland. Here he heard the tidings of the decisive battle of Culloden. It was no more than he had long expected, though the success at Falkirk had thrown a faint and setting gleam over the arms of the Chevalier. Yet it came upon him like a shock, by which he was for a time altogether unmanned. The generous, the courteous, the noble-minded adventurer was then a fugitive, with a price upon his head; his adherents, so brave, so enthusiastic, so faithful, were dead, imprisoned, or exiled. Where, now, was the exalted and high-souled Fergus, if, indeed, he had survived the night at Clifton? Where the pure-hearted and primitive Baron of Bradwardine, whose foibles seemed foils to set off the disinterestedness of his disposition, the genuine goodness of his heart, and his unshaken courage? Those who clung for support to these fallen columns, Rose and Flora, where were they to be sought, and in what distress must not the loss of their natural protectors have involved them? Of Flora he thought with the regard of a brother for a sister; of Rose with a sensation yet more deep and tender. It might be still his fate to supply the want of those guardians they had lost. Agitated by these thoughts he precipitated his journey.

When he arrived in Edinburgh, where his inquiries must necessarily commence, he felt the full difficulty of his situation. Many inhabitants of that city had seen and known him as Edward Waverley; how, then, could he avail himself of a passport as Francis Stanley? He resolved, therefore, to avoid all company, and to move northward as soon as possible. He was, however, obliged to wait a day or two in expectation of a letter from Colonel Talbot, and he was also to leave his own address, under his feigned character, at a place agreed upon. With this latter purpose he sallied out in the dusk through the well-known streets, carefully shunning observation, but in vain: one of the first persons whom he met at once recognised him. It was Mrs. Flockhart, Fergus Mac- Ivor’s good-humoured landlady.

‘Gude guide us, Mr. Waverley, is this you? na, ye needna be feared for me. I wad betray nae gentleman in your circumstances. Eh, lack-a-day! lack-a-day! here’s a change o’ markets; how merry Colonel MacIvor and you used to be in our house!’ And the good-natured widow shed a few natural tears. As there was no resisting her claim of acquaintance, Waverley acknowledged it with a good grace, as well as the danger of his own situation. ‘As it’s near the darkening, sir, wad ye just step in by to our house and tak a dish o’ tea? and I am sure if ye like to sleep in the little room, I wad tak care ye are no disturbed, and naebody wad ken ye; for Kate and Matty, the limmers, gaed aff wi’ twa o’ Hawley’s dragoons, and I hae twa new queans instead o’ them.’

Waverley accepted her invitation, and engaged her lodging for a night or two, satisfied he should be safer in the house of this simple creature than anywhere else. When he entered the parlour his heart swelled to see Fergus’s bonnet, with the white cockade, hanging beside the little mirror.

‘Ay,’ said Mrs. Flockhart, sighing, as she observed the direction of his eyes, ‘the puir Colonel bought a new ane just the day before they marched, and I winna let them tak that ane doun, but just to brush it ilka day mysell; and whiles I look at it till I just think I hear him cry to Callum to bring him his bonnet, as he used to do when he was ganging out. It’s unco silly — the neighbours ca’ me a Jacobite, but they may say their say — I am sure it’s no for that — but he was as kind-hearted a gentleman as ever lived, and as weel-fa’rd too. Oh, d’ye ken, sir, when he is to suffer?’

‘Suffer! Good heaven! Why, where is he?’

‘Eh, Lord’s sake! d’ye no ken? The poor Hieland body, Dugald Mahony, cam here a while syne, wi’ ane o’ his arms cuttit off, and a sair clour in the head — ye’ll mind Dugald, he carried aye an axe on his shouther — and he cam here just begging, as I may say, for something to eat. Aweel, he tauld us the Chief, as they ca’d him (but I aye ca’ him the Colonel), and Ensign Maccombich, that ye mind weel, were ta’en somewhere beside the English border, when it was sae dark that his folk never missed him till it was ower late, and they were like to gang clean daft. And he said that little Callum Beg (he was a bauld mischievous callant that) and your honour were killed that same night in the tuilzie, and mony mae braw men. But he grat when he spak o’ the Colonel, ye never saw the like. And now the word gangs the Colonel is to be tried, and to suffer wi’ them that were ta’en at Carlisle.’

‘And his sister?’

‘Ay, that they ca’d the Lady Flora — weel, she’s away up to Carlisle to him, and lives wi’ some grand Papist lady thereabouts to be near him.’

‘And,’ said Edward,‘the other young lady?’

‘Whilk other? I ken only of ae sister the Colonel had.’

‘I mean Miss Bradwardine,’ said Edward.

‘Ou, ay; the laird’s daughter’ said his landlady. ‘She was a very bonny lassie, poor thing, but far shyer than Lady Flora.’

‘Where is she, for God’s sake?’

‘Ou, wha kens where ony o’ them is now? puir things, they’re sair ta’en doun for their white cockades and their white roses; but she gaed north to her father’s in Perthshire, when the government troops cam back to Edinbro’. There was some prettymen amang them, and ane Major Whacker was quartered on me, a very ceevil gentleman, — but O, Mr. Waverley, he was naething sae weel fa’rd as the puir Colonel.’

‘Do you know what is become of Miss Bradwardine’s father?’

‘The auld laird? na, naebody kens that. But they say he fought very hard in that bluidy battle at Inverness; and Deacon Clank, the whit-iron smith, says that the government folk are sair agane him for having been out twice; and troth he might hae ta’en warning, but there’s nae Me like an auld fule. The puir Colonel was only out ance.’

Such conversation contained almost all the good-natured widow knew of the fate of her late lodgers and acquaintances; but it was enough to determine Edward, at all hazards, to proceed instantly to Tully-Veolan, where he concluded he should see, or at least hear, something of Rose. He therefore left a letter for Colonel Talbot at the place agreed upon, signed by his assumed name, and giving for his address the post-town next to the Baron’s residence.

From Edinburgh to Perth he took post-horses, resolving to make the rest of his journey on foot; a mode of travelling to which he was partial, and which had the advantage of permitting a deviation from the road when he saw parties of military at a distance. His campaign had considerably strengthened his constitution and improved his habits of enduring fatigue. His baggage he sent before him as opportunity occurred.

As he advanced northward, the traces of war became visible. Broken carriages, dead horses, unroofed cottages, trees felled for palisades, and bridges destroyed or only partially repaired — all indicated the movements of hostile armies. In those places where the gentry were attached to the Stuart cause, their houses seemed dismantled or deserted, the usual course of what may be called ornamental labour was totally interrupted, and the inhabitants were seen gliding about, with fear, sorrow, and dejection on their faces.

It was evening when he approached the village of Tully-Veolan, with feelings and sentiments — how different from those which attended his first entrance! Then, life was so new to him that a dull or disagreeable day was one of the greatest misfortunes which his imagination anticipated, and it seemed to him that his time ought only to be consecrated to elegant or amusing study, and relieved by social or youthful frolic. Now, how changed! how saddened, yet how elevated was his character, within the course of a very few months! Danger and misfortune are rapid, though severe teachers. ‘A sadder and a wiser man,’ he felt in internal confidence and mental dignity a compensation for the gay dreams which in his case experience had so rapidly dissolved.

As he approached the village he saw, with surprise and anxiety, that a party of soldiers were quartered near it, and, what was worse, that they seemed stationary there. This he conjectured from a few tents which he beheld glimmering upon what was called the Common Moor. To avoid the risk of being stopped and questioned in a place where he was so likely to be recognised, he made a large circuit, altogether avoiding the hamlet, and approaching the upper gate of the avenue by a by-path well known to him. A single glance announced that great changes had taken place. One half of the gate, entirely destroyed and split up for firewood, lay in piles, ready to be taken away; the other swung uselessly about upon its loosened hinges. The battlements above the gate were broken and thrown down, and the carved bears, which were said to have done sentinel’s duty upon the top for centuries, now, hurled from their posts, lay among the rubbish. The avenue was cruelly wasted. Several large trees were felled and left lying across the path; and the cattle of the villagers, and the more rude hoofs of dragoon horses, had poached into black mud the verdant turf which Waverley had so much admired.

Upon entering the court-yard, Edward saw the fears realised which these circumstances had excited. The place had been sacked by the King’s troops, who, in wanton mischief, had even attempted to burn it; and though the thickness of the walls had resisted the fire, unless to a partial extent, the stables and out-houses were totally consumed. The towers and pinnacles of the main building were scorched and blackened; the pavement of the court broken and shattered, the doors torn down entirely, or hanging by a single hinge, the windows dashed in and demolished, and the court strewed with articles of furniture broken into fragments. The accessaries of ancient distinction, to which the Baron, in the pride of his heart, had attached so much importance and veneration, were treated with peculiar contumely. The fountain was demolished, and the spring which had supplied it now flooded the court-yard. The stone basin seemed to be destined for a drinking-trough for cattle, from the manner in which it was arranged upon the ground. The whole tribe of bears, large and small, had experienced as little favour as those at the head of the avenue, and one or two of the family pictures, which seemed to have served as targets for the soldiers, lay on the ground in tatters. With an aching heart, as may well be imagined, Edward viewed this wreck of a mansion so respected. But his anxiety to learn the fate of the proprietors, and his fears as to what that fate might be, increased with every step. When he entered upon the terrace new scenes of desolation were visible. The balustrade was broken down, the walls destroyed, the borders overgrown with weeds, and the fruit-trees cut down or grubbed up. In one compartment of this old-fashioned garden were two immense horse-chestnut trees, of whose size the Baron was particularly vain; too lazy, perhaps, to cut them down, the spoilers, with malevolent ingenuity, had mined them and placed a quantity of gunpowder in the cavity. One had been shivered to pieces by the explosion, and the fragments lay scattered around, encumbering the ground it had so long shadowed. The other mine had been more partial in its effect. About one-fourth of the trunk of the tree was torn from the mass, which, mutilated and defaced on the one side, still spread on the other its ample and undiminished boughs.95

Amid these general marks of ravage, there were some which more particularly addressed the feelings of Waverley. Viewing the front of the building thus wasted and defaced, his eyes naturally sought the little balcony which more properly belonged to Rose’s apartment, her troisieme, or rather cinquieme, etage. It was easily discovered, for beneath it lay the stage-flowers and shrubs with which it was her pride to decorate it, and which had been hurled from the bartizan; several of her books were mingled with broken flower-pots and other remnants. Among these Waverley distinguished one of his own, a small copy of Ariosto, and gathered it as a treasure, though wasted by the wind and rain.

While, plunged in the sad reflections which the scene excited, he was looking around for some one who might explain the fate of the inhabitants, he heard a voice from the interior of the building singing, in well-remembered accents, an old Scottish song:—

They came upon us in the night,

And brake my bower and slew my knight;

My servants a’ for life did flee,

And left us in extremitie.

They slew my knight, to me sae dear;

They slew my knight, and drave his gear;

The moon may set, the sun may rise,

But a deadly sleep has closed his eyes. 96

‘Alas,’ thought Edward, ‘is it thou? Poor helpless being, art thou alone left, to gibber and moan, and fill with thy wild and unconnected scraps of minstrelsy the halls that protected thee?’ He then called, first low, and then louder, ‘Davie — Davie Gellatley!’

The poor simpleton showed himself from among the ruins of a sort of greenhouse, that once terminated what was called the terrace- walk, but at first sight of a stranger retreated, as if in terror. Waverley, remembering his habits, began to whistle a tune to which he was partial, which Davie had expressed great pleasure in listening to, and had picked up from him by the ear. Our hero’s minstrelsy no more equalled that of Blondel than poor Davie resembled Coeur de Lion; but the melody had the same effect of producing recognition. Davie again stole from his lurking-place, but timidly, while Waverley, afraid of frightening him, stood making the most encouraging signals he could devise. ‘It’s his ghaist,’ muttered Davie; yet, coming nearer, he seemed to acknowledge his living acquaintance. The poor fool himself appeared the ghost of what he had been. The peculiar dress in which he had been attired in better days showed only miserable rags of its whimsical finery, the lack of which was oddly supplied by the remnants of tapestried hangings, window-curtains, and shreds of pictures with which he had bedizened his tatters. His face, too, had lost its vacant and careless air, and the poor creature looked hollow-eyed, meagre, half-starved, and nervous to a pitiable degree. After long hesitation, he at length approached Waverley with some confidence, stared him sadly in the face, and said, ‘A’ dead and gane — a’ dead and gane.’

‘Who are dead?’ said Waverley, forgetting the incapacity of Davie to hold any connected discourse.

‘Baron, and Bailie, and Saunders Saunderson, and Lady Rose that sang sae sweet — a’ dead and gane — dead and gane;

But follow, follow me,

While glowworms light the lea,

I’ll show ye where the dead should be —

Each in his shroud,

While winds pipe loud,

And the red moon peeps dim through the cloud.

Follow, follow me;

Brave should he be

That treads by night the dead man’s lea.’

With these words, chanted in a wild and earnest tone, he made a sign to Waverley to follow him, and walked rapidly towards the bottom of the garden, tracing the bank of the stream which, it may be remembered, was its eastern boundary. Edward, over whom an involuntary shuddering stole at the import of his words, followed him in some hope of an explanation. As the house was evidently deserted, he could not expect to find among the ruins any more rational informer.

Davie, walking very fast, soon reached the extremity of the garden, and scrambled over the ruins of the wall that once had divided it from the wooded glen in which the old tower of Tully- Veolan was situated. He then jumped down into the bed of the stream, and, followed by Waverley, proceeded at a great pace, climbing over some fragments of rock and turning with difficulty round others. They passed beneath the ruins of the castle; Waverley followed, keeping up with his guide with difficulty, for the twilight began to fall. Following the descent of the stream a little lower, he totally lost him, but a twinkling light which he now discovered among the tangled copse-wood and bushes seemed a surer guide. He soon pursued a very uncouth path; and by its guidance at length reached the door of a wretched hut. A fierce barking of dogs was at first heard, but it stilled at his approach. A voice sounded from within, and he held it most prudent to listen before he advanced.

‘Wha hast thou brought here, thou unsonsy villain, thou?’ said an old woman, apparently in great indignation. He heard Davie Gellatley in answer whistle a part of the tune by which he had recalled himself to the simpleton’s memory, and had now no hesitation to knock at the door. There was a dead silence instantly within, except the deep growling of the dogs; and he next heard the mistress of the hut approach the door, not probably for the sake of undoing a latch, but of fastening a bolt. To prevent this Waverley lifted the latch himself.

In front was an old wretched-looking woman, exclaiming, ‘Wha comes into folk’s houses in this gate, at this time o’ the night?’ On one side, two grim and half-starved deer greyhounds laid aside their ferocity at his appearance, and seemed to recognise him. On the other side, half concealed by the open door, yet apparently seeking that concealment reluctantly, with a cocked pistol in his right hand and his left in the act of drawing another from his belt, stood a tall bony gaunt figure in the remnants of a faded uniform and a beard of three weeks’ growth. It was the Baron of Bradwardine. It is unnecessary to add, that he threw aside his weapon and greeted Waverley with a hearty embrace.

95 A pair of chestnut trees, destroyed, the one entirely and the other in part, by such a mischievous and wanton act of revenge, grew at Invergarry Castle, the fastness of MacDonald of Glengarry.

96 The first three couplets are from an old ballad, called the Border Widow’s Lament.

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