Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXVII

Now is Cupid a child of conscience — he makes restitution. — SHAKSPEARE

Mr. Duncan MacWheeble, no longer Commissary or Bailie, though still enjoying the empty name of the latter dignity, had escaped proscription by an early secession from the insurgent party and by his insignificance.

Edward found him in his office, immersed among papers and accounts. Before him was a large bicker of oatmeal porridge, and at the side thereof a horn spoon and a bottle of two-penny. Eagerly running his eye over a voluminous law-paper, he from time to time shovelled an immense spoonful of these nutritive viands into his capacious mouth. A pot-bellied Dutch bottle of brandy which stood by intimated either that this honest limb of the law had taken his morning already, or that he meant to season his porridge with such digestive; or perhaps both circumstances might reasonably be inferred. His night-cap and morning-gown, had whilome been of tartan, but, equally cautious and frugal, the honest Bailie had got them dyed black, lest their original ill-omened colour might remind his visitors of his unlucky excursion to Derby. To sum up the picture, his face was daubed with snuff up to the eyes, and his fingers with ink up to the knuckles. He looked dubiously at Waverley as he approached the little green rail which fenced his desk and stool from the approach of the vulgar. Nothing could give the Bailie more annoyance than the idea of his acquaintance being claimed by any of the unfortunate gentlemen who were now so much more likely to need assistance than to afford profit. But this was the rich young Englishman; who knew what might be his situation? He was the Baron’s friend too; what was to be done?

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Bailie Macwheeble — Painted by J. Lauder, Etched by H. Lefort

While these reflections gave an air of absurd perplexity to the poor man’s visage, Waverley, reflecting on the communication he was about to make to him, of a nature so ridiculously contrasted with the appearance of the individual, could not help bursting out a-laughing, as he checked the propensity to exclaim with Syphax —

Cato’s a proper person to intrust

A love-tale with.

As Mr. Macwheeble had no idea of any person laughing heartily who was either encircled by peril or oppressed by poverty, the hilarity of Edward’s countenance greatly relieved the embarrassment of his own, and, giving him a tolerably hearty welcome to Little Veolan, he asked what he would choose for breakfast. His visitor had, in the first place, something for his private ear, and begged leave to bolt the door. Duncan by no means liked this precaution, which savoured of danger to be apprehended; but he could not now draw back.

Convinced he might trust this man, as he could make it his interest to be faithful, Edward communicated his present situation and future schemes to Macwheeble. The wily agent listened with apprehension when he found Waverley was still in a state of proscription; was somewhat comforted by learning that he had a passport; rubbed his hands with glee when he mentioned the amount of his present fortune; opened huge eyes when he heard the brilliancy of his future expectations; but when he expressed his intention to share them with Miss Rose Bradwardine, ecstasy had almost deprived the honest man of his senses. The Bailie started from his three-footed stool like the Pythoness from her tripod; flung his best wig out of the window, because the block on which it was placed stood in the way of his career; chucked his cap to the ceiling, caught it as it fell; whistled ‘Tullochgorum’; danced a Highland fling with inimitable grace and agility, and then threw himself exhausted into a chair, exclaiming, ‘Lady Wauverley! ten thousand a year the least penny! Lord preserve my poor understanding!’

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“Lady Wauverley! Ten Thousand a Year!” — Etching by Cruickshank

‘Amen with all my heart,’ said Waverley; ‘but now, Mr. Macwheeble, let us proceed to business.’ This word had somewhat a sedative effect, but the Bailie’s head, as he expressed himself, was still ‘in the bees.’ He mended his pen, however, marked half a dozen sheets of paper with an ample marginal fold, whipped down Dallas of St. Martin’s ‘Styles’ from a shelf, where that venerable work roosted with Stair’s ‘Institutions,’ Dirleton’s ‘Doubts,’ Balfour’s ‘Practiques,’ and a parcel of old account-books, opened the volume at the article Contract of Marriage, and prepared to make what he called a’sma’ minute to prevent parties frae resiling.’

With some difficulty Waverley made him comprehend that he was going a little too fast. He explained to him that he should want his assistance, in the first place, to make his residence safe for the time, by writing to the officer at Tully-Veolan that Mr. Stanley, an English gentleman nearly related to Colonel Talbot, was upon a visit of business at Mr. Macwheeble’s, and, knowing the state of the country, had sent his passport for Captain Foster’s inspection. This produced a polite answer from the officer, with an invitation to Mr. Stanley to dine with him, which was declined (as may easily be supposed) under pretence of business.

Waverley’s next request was, that Mr. Macwheeble would despatch a man and horse to — — the post-town at which Colonel Talbot was to address him, with directions to wait there until the post should bring a letter for Mr. Stanley, and then to forward it to Little Veolan with all speed. In a moment the Bailie was in search of his apprentice (or servitor, as he was called Sixty Years Since), Jock Scriever, and in not much greater space of time Jock was on the back of the white pony. ‘Tak care ye guide him weel, sir, for he’s aye been short in the wind since — ahem — Lord be gude to me! (in a low voice), I was gaun to come out wi’ — since I rode whip and spur to fetch the Chevalier to redd Mr. Wauverley and Vich lan Vohr; and an uncanny coup I gat for my pains. Lord forgie your honour! I might hae broken my neck; but troth it was in a venture, mae ways nor ane; but this maks amends for a’. Lady Wauverley! ten thousand a year! Lord be gude unto me!’

‘But you forget, Mr. Macwheeble, we want the Baron’s consent — the lady’s — ’

‘Never fear, I’se be caution for them; I’se gie you my personal warrandice. Ten thousand a year! it dings Balmawhapple out and out — a year’s rent’s worth a’ Balmawhapple, fee and life-rent! Lord make us thankful!’

To turn the current of his feelings, Edward inquired if he had heard anything lately of the Chieftain of Glennaquoich.

‘Not one word,’ answered Macwheeble, ‘but that he was still in Carlisle Castle, and was soon to be panelled for his life. I dinna wish the young gentleman ill,’ he said, ‘but I hope that they that hae got him will keep him, and no let him back to this Hieland border to plague us wi’ black-mail and a’ manner o’ violent, wrongous, and masterfu’ oppression and spoliation, both by himself and others of his causing, sending, and hounding out; and he couldna tak care o’ the siller when he had gotten it neither, but flung it a’ into yon idle quean’s lap at Edinburgh; but light come light gane. For my part, I never wish to see a kilt in the country again, nor a red-coat, nor a gun, for that matter, unless it were to shoot a paitrick; they’re a’ tarr’d wi’ ae stick. And when they have done ye wrang, even when ye hae gotten decreet of spuilzie, oppression, and violent profits against them, what better are ye? They hae na a plack to pay ye; ye need never extract it.’

With such discourse, and the intervening topics of business, the time passed until dinner, Macwheeble meanwhile promising to devise some mode of introducing Edward at the Duchran, where Rose at present resided, without risk of danger or suspicion; which seemed no very easy task, since the laird was a very zealous friend to government. The poultry-yard had been laid under requisition, and cockyleeky and Scotch collops soon reeked in the Bailie’s little parlour. The landlord’s cork-screw was just introduced into the muzzle of a pint bottle of claret (cribbed possibly from the cellars of Tully-Veolan), when the sight of the grey pony passing the window at full trot induced the Bailie, but with due precaution, to place it aside for the moment. Enter Jock Scriever with a packet for Mr. Stanley; it is Colonel Talbot’s seal, and Edward’s ringers tremble as he undoes it. Two official papers, folded, signed, and sealed in all formality, drop out. They were hastily picked up by the Bailie, who had a natural respect for everything resembling a deed, and, glancing slily on their titles, his eyes, or rather spectacles, are greeted with ‘Protection by his Royal Highness to the person of Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine, Esq., of that ilk, commonly called Baron of Bradwardine, forfeited for his accession to the late rebellion.’ The other proves to be a protection of the same tenor in favour of Edward Waverley, Esq. Colonel Talbot’s letter was in these words:—

‘My DEAR EDWARD,

‘I am just arrived here, and yet I have finished my business; it has cost me some trouble though, as you shall hear. I waited upon his Royal Highness immediately on my arrival, and found him in no very good humour for my purpose. Three or four Scotch gentlemen were just leaving his levee. After he had expressed himself to me very courteously; “Would you think it,” he said, “Talbot, here have been half a dozen of the most respectable gentlemen and best friends to government north of the Forth, Major Melville of Cairnvreckan, Rubrick of Duchran, and others, who have fairly wrung from me, by their downright importunity, a present protection and the promise of a future pardon for that stubborn old rebel whom they call Baron of Bradwardine. They allege that his high personal character, and the clemency which he showed to such of our people as fell into the rebels’ hands, should weigh in his favour, especially as the loss of his estate is likely to be a severe enough punishment. Rubrick has undertaken to keep him at his own house till things are settled in the country; but it’s a little hard to be forced in a manner to pardon such a mortal enemy to the House of Brunswick.” This was no favourable moment for opening my business; however, I said I was rejoiced to learn that his Royal Highness was in the course of granting such requests, as it emboldened me to present one of the like nature in my own name. He was very angry, but I persisted; I mentioned the uniform support of our three votes in, the house, touched modestly on services abroad, though valuable only in his Royal Highness’s having been pleased kindly to accept them, and founded pretty strongly on his own expressions of friendship and good-will. He was embarrassed, but obstinate. I hinted the policy of detaching, on all future occasions, the heir of such a fortune as your uncle’s from the machinations of the disaffected. But I made no impression. I mentioned the obligations which I lay under to Sir Everard and to you personally, and claimed, as the sole reward of my services, that he would be pleased to afford me the means of evincing my gratitude. I perceived that he still meditated a refusal, and, taking my commission from my pocket, I said (as a last resource) that, as his Royal Highness did not, under these pressing circumstances, think me worthy of a favour which he had not scrupled to grant to other gentlemen whose services I could hardly judge more important than my own, I must beg leave to deposit, with all humility, my commission in his Royal Highness’s hands, and to retire from the service. He was not prepared for this; he told me to take up my commission, said some handsome things of my services, and granted my request. You are therefore once more a free man, and I have promised for you that you will be a good boy in future, and remember what you owe to the lenity of government. Thus you see my prince can be as generous as yours. I do not pretend, indeed, that he confers a favour with all the foreign graces and compliments of your Chevalier errant; but he has a plain English manner, and the evident reluctance with which he grants your request indicates the sacrifice which he makes of his own inclination to your wishes. My friend, the adjutant-general, has procured me a duplicate of the Baron’s protection (the original being in Major Melville’s possession), which I send to you, as I know that if you can find him you will have pleasure in being the first to communicate the joyful intelligence. He will of course repair to the Duchran without loss of time, there to ride quarantine for a few weeks. As for you, I give you leave to escort him thither, and to stay a week there, as I understand a certain fair lady is in that quarter. And I have the pleasure to tell you that whatever progress you can make in her good graces will be highly agreeable to Sir Everard and Mrs. Rachel, who will never believe your views and prospects settled, and the three ermines passant in actual safety, until you present them with a Mrs. Edward Waverley. Now, certain love-affairs of my own — a good many years since — interrupted some measures which were then proposed in favour of the three ermines passant; so I am bound in honour to make them amends. Therefore make good use of your time, for, when your week is expired, it will be necessary that you go to London to plead your pardon in the law courts.

‘Ever, dear Waverley, yours most truly, ‘PHILIP TALBOT.’

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter66.html

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