Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XXXVIII

Happy’s the wooing

That’s not long a doing

When the first rapturous sensation occasioned by these excellent tidings had somewhat subsided, Edward proposed instantly to go down to the glen to acquaint the Baron with their import. But the cautious Bailie justly observed that, if the Baron were to appear instantly in public, the tenantry and villagers might become riotous in expressing their joy, and give offence to ‘the powers that be,’ a sort of persons for whom the Bailie always had unlimited respect. He therefore proposed that Mr. Waverley should go to Janet Gellatley’s and bring the Baron up under cloud of night to Little Veolan, where he might once more enjoy the luxury of a good bed. In the meanwhile, he said, he himself would go to Captain Foster and show him the Baron’s protection, and obtain his countenance for harbouring him that night, and he would have horses ready on the morrow to set him on his way to the Duchran along with Mr. Stanley, ‘whilk denomination, I apprehend, your honour will for the present retain,’ said the Bailie.

‘Certainly, Mr. Macwheeble; but will you not go down to the glen yourself in the evening to meet your patron?’

‘That I wad wi’ a’ my heart; and mickle obliged to your honour for putting me in mind o’ mybounden duty. But it will be past sunset afore I get back frae the Captain’s, and at these unsonsy hours the glen has a bad name; there’s something no that canny about auld Janet Gellatley. The Laird he’ll no believe thae things, but he was aye ower rash and venturesome, and feared neither man nor deevil, an sae’s seen o’t. But right sure am I Sir George Mackenyie says, that no divine can doubt there are witches, since the Bible says thou shalt not suffer them to live; and that no lawyer in Scotland can doubt it, since it is punishable with death by our law. So there’s baith law and gospel for it. An his honour winna believe the Leviticus, he might aye believe the Statute-book; but he may tak his ain way o’t; it’s a’ ane to Duncan Macwheeble. However, I shall send to ask up auld Janet this e’en; it’s best no to lightly them that have that character; and we’ll want Davie to turn the spit, for I’ll gar Eppie put down a fat goose to the fire for your honours to your supper.’

When it was near sunset Waverley hastened to the hut; and he could not but allow that superstition had chosen no improper locality, or unfit object, for the foundation of her fantastic terrors. It resembled exactly the description of Spenser:—

There, in a gloomy hollow glen, she found

A little cottage built of sticks and reeds,

In homely wise, and wall’d with sods around,

In which a witch did dwell in loathly weeds,

And wilful want, all careless of her needs,

So choosing solitary to abide

Far from all neighbours, that her devilish deeds,

And hellish arts, from people she might hide,

And hurt far off, unknown, whomsoever she espied.

He entered the cottage with these verses in his memory. Poor old Janet, bent double with age and bleared with peat-smoke, was tottering about the hut with a birch broom, muttering to herself as she endeavoured to make her hearth and floor a little clean for the reception of her expected guests. Waverley’s step made her start, look up, and fall a-trembling, so much had her nerves been on the rack for her patron’s safety. With difficulty Waverley made her comprehend that the Baron was now safe from personal danger; and when her mind had admitted that joyful news, it was equally hard to make her believe that he was not to enter again upon possession of his estate. ‘It behoved to be,’ she said, ‘he wad get it back again; naebody wad be sae gripple as to tak his gear after they had gi’en him a pardon: and for that Inch-Grabbit, I could whiles wish mysell a witch for his sake, if I werena feared the Enemy wad tak me at my word.’ Waverley then gave her some money, and promised that her fidelity should be rewarded. ‘How can I be rewarded, sir, sae weel as just to see my auld maister and Miss Rose come back and bruik their ain?’

Waverley now took leave of Janet, and soon stood beneath the Baron’s Patmos. At a low whistle he observed the veteran peeping out to reconnoitre, like an old badger with his head out of his hole. ‘Ye hae come rather early, my good lad,’ said he, descending; ‘I question if the red-coats hae beat the tattoo yet, and we’re not safe till then.’

‘Good news cannot be told too soon,’ said Waverley; and with infinite joy communicated to him the happy tidings. The old man stood for a moment in silent devotion, then exclaimed, ‘Praise be to God! I shall see my bairn again.’

‘And never, I hope, to part with her more,’ said Waverley.

‘I trust in God not, unless it be to win the means of supporting her; for my things are but in a bruckle state; — but what signifies warld’s gear?’

‘And if,’ said Waverley modestly, ‘there were a situation in life which would put Miss Bradwardine beyond the uncertainty of fortune, and in the rank to which she was born, would you object to it, my dear Baron, because it would make one of your friends the happiest man in the world?’ The Baron turned and looked at him with great earnestness. ‘Yes,’ continued Edward, ‘I shall not consider my sentence of banishment as repealed unless you will give me permission to accompany you to the Duchran, and — ’

The Baron seemed collecting all his dignity to make a suitable reply to what, at another time, he would have treated as the propounding a treaty of alliance between the houses of Bradwardine and Waverley. But his efforts were in vain; the father was too mighty for the Baron; the pride of birth and rank were swept away; in the joyful surprise a slight convulsion passed rapidly over his features, as he gave way to the feelings of nature, threw his arms around Waverley’s neck, and sobbed out — ‘My son, my son! if I had been to search the world, I would have made my choice here.’ Edward returned the embrace with great sympathy of feeling, and for a little while they both kept silence. At length it was broken by Edward. ‘But Miss Bradwardine?’

‘She had never a will but her old father’s; besides, you are a likely youth, of honest principles and high birth; no, she never had any other will than mine, and in my proudest days I could not have wished a mair eligible espousal for her than the nephew of my excellent old friend, Sir Everard. But I hope, young man, ye deal na rashly in this matter? I hope ye hae secured the approbation of your ain friends and allies, particularly of your uncle, who is in loco parentis? Ah! we maun tak heed o’ that.’ Edward assured him that Sir Everard would think himself highly honoured in the flattering reception his proposal had met with, and that it had his entire approbation; in evidence of which he put Colonel Talbot’s letter into the Baron’s hand. The Baron read it with great attention. ‘Sir Everard,’ he said, ‘always despised wealth in comparison of honour and birth; and indeed he hath no occasion to court the Diva Pecunia. Yet I now wish, since this Malcolm turns out such a parricide, for I can call him no better, as to think of alienating the family inheritance — I now wish (his eyes fixed on a part of the roof which was visible above the trees) that I could have left Rose the auld hurley-house and the riggs belanging to it. And yet,’ said he, resuming more cheerfully, ‘it’s maybe as weel as it is; for, as Baron of Bradwardine, I might have thought it my duty to insist upon certain compliances respecting name and bearings, whilk now, as a landless laird wi’ a tocherless daughter, no one can blame me for departing from.’

‘Now, Heaven be praised!’ thought Edward,‘that Sir Everard does not hear these scruples! The three ermines passant and rampant bear would certainly have gone together by the ears.’ He then, with all the ardour of a young lover, assured the Baron that he sought for his happiness only in Rose’s heart and hand, and thought himself as happy in her father’s simple approbation as if he had settled an earldom upon his daughter.

They now reached Little Veolan. The goose was smoking on the table, and the Bailie brandished his knife and fork. A joyous greeting took place between him and his patron. The kitchen, too, had its company. Auld Janet was established at the ingle-nook; Davie had turned the spit to his immortal honour; and even Ban and Buscar, in the liberality of Macwheeble’s joy, had been stuffed to the throat with food, and now lay snoring on the floor.

The next day conducted the Baron and his young friend to the Duchran, where the former was expected, in consequence of the success of the nearly unanimous application of the Scottish friends of government in his favour. This had been so general and so powerful that it was almost thought his estate might have been saved, had it not passed into the rapacious hands of his unworthy kinsman, whose right, arising out of the Baron’s attainder, could not be affected by a pardon from the crown. The old gentleman, however, said, with his usual spirit, he was more gratified by the hold he possessed in the good opinion of his neighbours than he would have been in being rehabilitated and restored in integrum, had it been found practicable.’

We shall not attempt to describe the meeting of the father and daughter, loving each other so affectionately, and separated under such perilous circumstances. Still less shall we attempt to analyse the deep blush of Rose at receiving the compliments of Waverley, or stop to inquire whether she had any curiosity respecting the particular cause of his journey to Scotland at that period. We shall not even trouble the reader with the humdrum details of a courtship Sixty Years Since. It is enough to say that, under so strict a martinet as the Baron, all things were conducted in due form. He took upon himself, the morning after their arrival, the task of announcing the proposal of Waverley to Rose, which she heard with a proper degree of maiden timidity. Fame does, however, say that Waverley had the evening before found five minutes to apprise her of what was coming, while the rest of the company were looking at three twisted serpents which formed a, jet d’eau in the garden.

My fair readers will judge for themselves; but, for my part, I cannot conceive how so important an affair could be communicated in so short a space of time; at least, it certainly took a full hour in the Baron’s mode of conveying it.

Waverley was now considered as a received lover in all the forms. He was made, by dint of smirking and nodding on the part of the lady of the house, to sit next Miss Bradwardine at dinner, to be Miss Bradwardine’s partner at cards. If he came into the room, she of the four Miss Rubricks who chanced to be next Rose was sure to recollect that her thimble or her scissors were at the other end of the room, in order to leave the seat nearest to Miss Bradwardine vacant for his occupation. And sometimes, if papa and mamma were not in the way to keep them on their good behaviour, the misses would titter a little. The old Laird of Duchran would also have his occasional jest, and the old lady her remark. Even the Baron could not refrain; but here Rose escaped every embarrassment but that of conjecture, for his wit was usually couched in a Latin quotation. The very footmen sometimes grinned too broadly, the maidservants giggled mayhap too loud, and a provoking air of intelligence seemed to pervade the whole family. Alice Bean, the pretty maid of the cavern, who, after her father’s misfortune, as she called it, had attended Rose as fille-de- chambre, smiled and smirked with the best of them. Rose and Edward, however, endured all these little vexatious circumstances as other folks have done before and since, and probably contrived to obtain some indemnification, since they are not supposed, on the whole, to have been particularly unhappy during Waverley’s six days’ stay at the Duchran.

It was finally arranged that Edward should go to Waverley-Honour to make the necessary arrangements for his marriage, thence to London to take the proper measures for pleading his pardon, and return as soon as possible to claim the hand of his plighted bride. He also intended in his journey to visit Colonel Talbot; but, above all, it was his most important object to learn the fate of the unfortunate Chief of Glennaquoich; to visit him at Carlisle, and to try whether anything could be done for procuring, if not a pardon, a commutation at least, or alleviation, of the punishment to which he was almost certain of being condemned; and, in case of the worst, to offer the miserable Flora an asylum with Rose, or otherwise to assist her views in any mode which might seem possible. The fate of Fergus seemed hard to be averted. Edward had already striven to interest his friend, Colonel Talbot, in his behalf; but had been given distinctly to understand by his reply that his credit in matters of that nature was totally exhausted.

The Colonel was still in Edinburgh, and proposed to wait there for some months upon business confided to him by the Duke of Cumberland. He was to be joined by Lady Emily, to whom easy travelling and goat’s whey were recommended, and who was to journey northward under the escort of Francis Stanley. Edward, therefore, met the Colonel at Edinburgh, who wished him joy in the kindest manner on his approaching happiness, and cheerfully undertook many commissions which our hero was necessarily obliged to delegate to his charge. But on the subject of Fergus he was inexorable. He satisfied Edward, indeed, that his interference would be unavailing; but, besides, Colonel Talbot owned that he could not conscientiously use any influence in favour of that unfortunate gentleman. ‘Justice,’ he said, ‘which demanded some penalty of those who had wrapped the whole nation in fear and in mourning, could not perhaps have selected a fitter victim. He came to the field with the fullest light upon the nature of his attempt. He had studied and understood the subject. His father’s fate could not intimidate him; the lenity of the laws which had restored to him his father’s property and rights could not melt him. That he was brave, generous, and possessed many good qualities only rendered him the more dangerous; that he was enlightened and accomplished made his crime the less excusable; that he was an enthusiast in a wrong cause only made him the more fit to be its martyr. Above all, he had been the means of bringing many hundreds of men into the field who, without him, would never have broken the peace of the country.

‘I repeat it,’ said the Colonel,‘though Heaven knows with a heart distressed for him as an individual, that this young gentleman has studied and fully understood the desperate game which he has played. He threw for life or death, a coronet or a coffin; and he cannot now be permitted, with justice to the country, to draw stakes because the dice have gone against him.’

Such was the reasoning of those times, held even by brave and humane men towards a vanquished enemy. Let us devoutly hope that, in this respect at least, we shall never see the scenes or hold the sentiments that were general in Britain Sixty Years Since.

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