Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXV

Comparing of Notes

Thearon’s story was short, when divested of the adages and commonplaces, Latin, English, and Scotch, with which his erudition garnished it. He insisted much upon his grief at the loss of Edward and of Glennaquoich, fought the fields of Falkirk and Culloden, and related how, after all was lost in the last battle, he had returned home, under the idea of more easily finding shelter among his own tenants and on his own estate than elsewhere. A party of soldiers had been sent to lay waste his property, for clemency was not the order of the day. Their proceedings, however, were checked by an order from the civil court. The estate, it was found, might not be forfeited to the crown to the prejudice of Malcolm Bradwardine of Inch-Grabbit, the heir-male, whose claim could not be prejudiced by the Baron’s attainder, as deriving no right through him, and who, therefore, like other heirs of entail in the same situation, entered upon possession. But, unlike many in similar circumstances, the new laird speedily showed that he intended utterly to exclude his predecessor from all benefit or advantage in the estate, and that it was his purpose to avail himself of the old Baron’s evil fortune to the full extent. This was the more ungenerous, as it was generally known that, from a romantic idea of not prejudicing this young man’s right as heir-male, the Baron had refrained from settling his estate on his daughter.

This selfish injustice was resented by the country people, who were partial to their old master, and irritated against his successor. In the Baron’s own words, ‘The matter did not coincide with the feelings of the commons of Bradwardine, Mr. Waverley; and the tenants were slack and repugnant in payment of their mails and duties; and when my kinsman came to the village wi’ the new factor, Mr. James Howie, to lift the rents, some wanchancy person — I suspect John Heatherblutter, the auld gamekeeper, that was out wi’ me in the year fifteen — fired a shot at him in the gloaming, whereby he was so affrighted, that I may say with Tullius In Catilinam, “Abiit, evasit, erupit, effugit.” He fled, sir, as one may say, incontinent to Stirling. And now he hath advertised the estate for sale, being himself the last substitute in the entail. And if I were to lament about sic matters, this would grieve me mair than its passing from my immediate possession, whilk, by the course of nature, must have happened in a few years; whereas now it passes from the lineage that should have possessed it in scecula saculorum. But God’s will be done, humana perpessi sumus. Sir John of Bradwardine — Black Sir John, as he is called — who was the common ancestor of our house and the Inch-Grabbits, little thought such a person would have sprung from his loins. Mean time, he has accused me to some of the primates, the rulers for the time, as if I were a cut-throat, and an abettor of bravoes and assassinates and coupe-jarrets. And they have sent soldiers here to abide on the estate, and hunt me like a partridge upon the mountains, as Scripture says of good King David, or like our valiant Sir William Wallace — not that I bring myself into comparison with either. I thought, when I heard you at the door, they had driven the auld deer to his den at last; and so I e’en proposed to die at bay, like a buck of the first head. But now, Janet, canna ye gie us something for supper?’ ‘Ou ay, sir, I’ll brander the moor-fowl that John Heatherblutter brought in this morning; and ye see puir Davie’s roasting the black hen’s eggs. I daur say, Mr. Wauverley, ye never kend that a’ the eggs that were sae weel roasted at supper in the Ha’-house were aye turned by our Davie? there’s no the like o’ him ony gate for powtering wi’ his fingers amang the het peat-ashes and roasting eggs.’ Davie all this while lay with his nose almost in the fire, nuzzling among the ashes, kicking his heels, mumbling to himself, turning the eggs as they lay in the hot embers, as if to confute the proverb, that ‘there goes reason to roasting of eggs,’ and justify the eulogium which poor Janet poured out upon

Him whom she loved, her idiot boy.

‘Davie’s no sae silly as folk tak him for, Mr. Wauverley; he wadna hae brought you here unless he had kend ye was a friend to his Honour; indeed the very dogs kend ye, Mr. Wauverley, for ye was aye kind to beast and body. I can tell you a story o’ Davie, wi’ his Honour’s leave. His Honour, ye see, being under hiding in thae sair times — the mair’s the pity — he lies a’ day, and whiles a’ night, in the cove in the dern hag; but though it’s a bieldy eneugh bit, and the auld gudeman o’ Corse-Cleugh has panged it wi’ a kemple o’ strae amaist, yet when the country’s quiet, and the night very cauld, his Honour whiles creeps doun here to get a warm at the ingle and a sleep amang the blankets, and gangs awa in the morning. And so, ae morning, siccan a fright as I got! Twa unlucky red-coats were up for black-fishing, or some siccan ploy — for the neb o’ them’s never out o’ mischief — and they just got a glisk o’ his Honour as he gaed into the wood, and banged aff a gun at him. I out like a jer-falcon, and cried — “Wad they shoot an honest woman’s poor innocent bairn?” And I fleyt at them, and threepit it was my son; and they damned and swuir at me that it was the auld rebel, as the villains ca’d his Honour; and Davie was in the wood, and heard the tuilzie, and he, just out o’ his ain head, got up the auld grey mantle that his Honour had flung off him to gang the faster, and he cam out o’ the very same bit o’ the wood, majoring and looking about sae like his Honour, that they were clean beguiled, and thought they had letten aff their gun at crack-brained Sawney, as they ca’ him; and they gae me saxpence, and twa saumon fish, to say naething about it. Na, na, Davie’s no just like other folk, puir fallow; but he’s no sae silly as folk tak him for. But, to be sure, how can we do eneugh for his Honour, when we and ours have lived on his ground this twa hundred years; and when he keepit my puir Jamie at school and college, and even at the Ha’-house, till he gaed to a better place; and when he saved me frae being ta’en to Perth as a witch — Lord forgi’e them that would touch sic a puir silly auld body! — and has maintained puir Davie at heck and manger maist feck o’ his life?’

Waverley at length found an opportunity to interrupt Janet’s narrative by an inquiry after Miss Bradwardine.

‘She’s weel and safe, thank God! at the Duchran,’ answered the Baron; ‘the laird’s distantly related to us, and more nearly to my chaplain, Mr. Rubrick; and, though he be of Whig principles, yet he’s not forgetful of auld friendship at this time. The Bailie’s doing what he can to save something out of the wreck for puir Rose; but I doubt, I doubt, I shall never see her again, for I maun lay my banes in some far country.’

‘Hout na, your Honour,’ said old Janet, ‘ye were just as ill aff in the feifteen, and got the bonnie baronie back, an’ a’. And now the eggs is ready, and the muir-cock’s brandered, and there’s ilk ane a trencher and some saut, and the heel o’ the white loaf that cam frae the Bailie’s, and there’s plenty o’ brandy in the greybeard that Luckie Maclearie sent doun, and winna ye be suppered like princes?’

‘I wish one Prince, at least, of our acquaintance may be no worse off,’ said the Baron to Waverley, who joined him in cordial hopes for the safety of the unfortunate Chevalier.

They then began to talk of their future prospects. The Baron’s plan was very simple. It was, to escape to France, where, by the interest of his old friends, he hoped to get some military employment, of which he still conceived himself capable. He invited Waverley to go with him, a proposal in which he acquiesced, providing the interest of Colonel Talbot should fail in procuring his pardon. Tacitly he hoped the Baron would sanction his addresses to Rose, and give him a right to assist him in his exile; but he forbore to speak on this subject until his own fate should be decided. They then talked of Glennaquoich, for whom the Baron expressed great anxiety, although, he observed, he was ‘the very Achilles of Horatius Flaccus, —

Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer; which,’ he continued, ‘has been thus rendered (vernacularly) by Struan Robertson:—

A fiery etter-cap, a fractious chiel,

As het as ginger, and as stieve as steel.’

Flora had a large and unqualified share of the good old man’s sympathy.

It was now wearing late. Old Janet got into some kind of kennel behind the hallan; Davie had been long asleep and snoring between Ban and Buscar. These dogs had followed him to the hut after the mansion-house was deserted, and there constantly resided; and their ferocity, with the old woman’s reputation of being a witch, contributed a good deal to keep visitors from the glen. With this view, Bailie Macwheeble provided Janet underhand with meal for their maintenance, and also with little articles of luxury for his patron’s use, in supplying which much precaution was necessarily used. After some compliments, the Baron occupied his usual couch, and Waverley reclined in an easy chair of tattered velvet, which had once garnished the state bed-room of Tully-Veolan (for the furniture of this mansion was now scattered through all the cottages in the vicinity), and went to sleep as comfortably as if he had been in a bed of down.

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