Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter XLII

This is no mine ain house, I ken by the bigging o’t — Old Song.

The nuptial party travelled in great style. There was a coach and six after the newest pattern, which Sir Everard had presented to his nephew, that dazzled with its splendour the eyes of one half of Scotland; there was the family coach of Mr. Rubrick; — both these were crowded with ladies, — and there were gentlemen on horseback, with their servants, to the number of a round score. Nevertheless, without having the fear of famine before his eyes, Bailie Macwheeble met them in the road to entreat that they would pass by his house at Little Veolan. The Baron stared, and said his son and he would certainly ride by Little Veolan and pay their compliments to the Bailie, but could not think of bringing with them the ‘haill comitatus nuptialis, or matrimonial procession.’ He added, ‘that, as he understood that the barony had been sold by its unworthy possessor, he was glad to see his old friend Duncan had regained his situation under the new Dominus, or proprietor.’ The Bailie ducked, bowed, and fidgeted, and then again insisted upon his invitation; until the Baron, though rather piqued at the pertinacity of his instances, could not nevertheless refuse to consent without making evident sensations which he was anxious to conceal.

He fell into a deep study as they approached the top of the avenue, and was only startled from it by observing that the battlements were replaced, the ruins cleared away, and (most wonderful of all) that the two great stone bears, those mutilated Dagons of his idolatry, had resumed their posts over the gateway. ‘Now this new proprietor,’ said he to Edward, ‘has shown mair gusto, as the Italians call it, in the short time he has had this domain, than that hound Malcolm, though I bred him here mysell, has acquired vita adhuc durante. And now I talk of hounds, is not yon Ban and Buscar who come scouping up the avenue with Davie Gellatley?’

‘I vote we should go to meet them, sir,’ said Waverley, ‘for I believe the present master of the house is Colonel Talbot, who will expect to see us. We hesitated to mention to you at first that he had purchased your ancient patrimonial property, and even yet, if you do not incline to visit him, we can pass on to the Bailie’s.’

The Baron had occasion for all his magnanimity. However, he drew a long breath, took a long snuff, and observed, since they had brought him so far, he could not pass the Colonel’s gate, and he would be happy to see the new master of his old tenants. He alighted accordingly, as did the other gentlemen and ladies; he gave his arm to his daughter, and as they descended the avenue pointed out to her how speedily the ‘Diva Pecunia of the Southron — their tutelary deity, he might call her — had removed the marks of spoliation.’

In truth, not only had the felled trees been removed, but, their stumps being grubbed up and the earth round them levelled and sown with grass, every mark of devastation, unless to an eye intimately acquainted with the spot, was already totally obliterated. There was a similar reformation in the outward man of Davie Gellatley, who met them, every now and then stopping to admire the new suit which graced his person, in the same colours as formerly, but bedizened fine enough to have served Touchstone himself. He danced up with his usual ungainly frolics, first to the Baron and then to Rose, passing his hands over his clothes, crying, ‘Bra’, bra’ Davie,’ and scarce able to sing a bar to an end of his thousand-and-one songs for the breathless extravagance of his joy. The dogs also acknowledged their old master with a thousand gambols. ‘Upon my conscience, Rose,’ ejaculated the Baron, ‘the gratitude o’ thae dumb brutes and of that puir innocent brings the tears into my auld een, while that schellum Malcolm — but I’m obliged to Colonel Talbot for putting my hounds into such good condition, and likewise for puir Davie. But, Rose, my dear, we must not permit them to be a life-rent burden upon the estate.’

As he spoke, Lady Emily, leaning upon the arm of her husband, met the party at the lower gate with a thousand welcomes. After the ceremony of introduction had been gone through, much abridged by the ease and excellent breeding of Lady Emily, she apologised for having used a little art to wile them back to a place which might awaken some painful reflections — ‘But as it was to change masters, we were very desirous that the Baron — ’

‘Mr. Bradwardine, madam, if you please,’ said the old gentleman.

‘ — Mr. Bradwardine, then, and Mr. Waverley should see what we have done towards restoring the mansion of your fathers to its former state.’

The Baron answered with a low bow. Indeed, when he entered the court, excepting that the heavy stables, which had been burnt down, were replaced by buildings of a lighter and more picturesque appearance, all seemed as much as possible restored to the state in which he had left it when he assumed arms some months before. The pigeon-house was replenished; the fountain played with its usual activity, and not only the bear who predominated over its basin, but all the other bears whatsoever, were replaced on their several stations, and renewed or repaired with so much care that they bore no tokens of the violence which had so lately descended upon them. While these minutiae had been so needfully attended to, it is scarce necessary to add that the house itself had been thoroughly repaired, as well as the gardens, with the strictest attention to maintain the original character of both, and to remove as far as possible all appearance of the ravage they had sustained. The Baron gazed in silent wonder; at length he addressed Colonel Talbot —

‘While I acknowledge my obligation to you, sir, for the restoration of the badge of our family, I cannot but marvel that you have nowhere established your own crest, whilk is, I believe, a mastiff, anciently called a talbot; as the poet has it,

A talbot strong, a sturdy tyke.

At least such a dog is the crest of the martial and renowned Earls of Shrewsbury, to whom your family are probably blood-relations.’

‘I believe,’ said the Colonel, smiling, ‘our dogs are whelps of the same litter; for my part, if crests were to dispute precedence, I should be apt to let them, as the proverb says, “fight dog, fight bear.”’

As he made this speech, at which the Baron took another long pinch of snuff, they had entered the house, that is, the Baron, Rose, and Lady Emily, with young Stanley and the Bailie, for Edward and the rest of the party remained on the terrace to examine a new greenhouse stocked with the finest plants. The Baron resumed his favourite topic — ‘However it may please you to derogate from the honour of your burgonet, Colonel Talbot, which is doubtless your humour, as I have seen in other gentlemen of birth and honour in your country, I must again repeat it as a most ancient and distinguished bearing, as well as that of my young friend Francis Stanley, which is the eagle and child.’

‘The bird and bantling they call it in Derbyshire, sir,’ said Stanley.

‘Ye’re a daft callant, sir,’ said the Baron, who had a great liking to this young man, perhaps because he sometimes teased him — ‘Ye’re a daft callant, and I must correct you some of these days,’ shaking his great brown fist at him. ‘But what I meant to say, Colonel Talbot, is, that yours is an ancient prosapia, or descent, and since you have lawfully and justly acquired the estate for you and yours which I have lost for me and mine, I wish it may remain in your name as many centuries as it has done in that of the late proprietor’s.’

‘That,’ answered the Colonel, ‘is very handsome, Mr. Bradwardine, indeed.’

‘And yet, sir, I cannot but marvel that you, Colonel, whom I noted to have so much of the amor patritz when we met in Edinburgh as even to vilipend other countries, should have chosen to establish your Lares, or household gods, procul a patrice finibus, and in a manner to expatriate yourself.’

‘Why really, Baron, I do not see why, to keep the secret of these foolish boys, Waverley and Stanley, and of my wife, who is no wiser, one old soldier should continue to impose upon another. You must know, then, that I have so much of that same prejudice in favour of my native country, that the sum of money which I advanced to the seller of this extensive barony has only purchased for me a box in —— shire, called Brere-wood Lodge, with about two hundred and fifty acres of land, the chief merit of which is, that it is within a very few miles of Waverley-Honour.’

‘And who, then, in the name of Heaven, has bought this property?’

‘That,’ said the Colonel, ‘it is this gentleman’s profession to explain.’

The Bailie, whom this reference regarded, and who had all this while shifted from one foot to another with great impatience, ‘like a hen,’ as he afterwards said, ‘upon a het girdle’; and chuckling, he might have added, like the said hen in all the glory of laying an egg, now pushed forward. ‘That I can, that I can, your honour,’ drawing from his pocket a budget of papers, and untying the red tape with a hand trembling with eagerness. ‘Here is the disposition and assignation by Malcolm Bradwardine of Inch-Grabbit, regularly signed and tested in terms of the statute, whereby, for a certain sum of sterling money presently contented and paid to him, he has disponed, alienated, and conveyed the whole estate and barony of Bradwardine, Tully-Veolan, and others, with the fortalice and manor-place — ’

‘For God’s sake, to the point, sir; I have all that by heart,’ said the Colonel.

‘ — To Cosmo Comyne Bradwardme, Esq.,’ pursued the Bailie, ‘his heirs and assignees, simply and irredeemably, to be held either a me vel de me — ’

‘Pray read short, sir.’

‘On the conscience of an honest man, Colonel, I read as short as is consistent with style — under the burden and reservation always — ’

‘Mr. Macwheeble, this would outlast a Russian winter; give me leave. In short, Mr. Bradwardine, your family estate is your own once more in full property, and at your absolute disposal, but only burdened with the sum advanced to re-purchase it, which I understand is utterly disproportioned to its value.’

‘An auld sang — an auld sang, if it please your honours,’ cried the Bailie, rubbing his hands; ‘look at the rental book.’

‘ — Which sum being advanced, by Mr. Edward Waverley, chiefly from the price of his father’s property which I bought from him, is secured to his lady your daughter and her family by this marriage.’

‘It is a catholic security,’ shouted the Bailie,’ to Rose Comyne Bradwardine, alias Wauverley, in life-rent, and the children of the said marriage in fee; and I made up a wee bit minute of an antenuptial contract, intuitu matrimonij, so it cannot be subject to reduction hereafter, as a donation inter virum et uxorem.’

It is difficult to say whether the worthy Baron was most delighted with the restitution of his family property or with the delicacy and generosity that left him unfettered to pursue his purpose in disposing of it after his death, and which avoided as much as possible even the appearance of laying him under pecuniary obligation. When his first pause of joy and astonishment was over, his thoughts turned to the unworthy heir-male, who, he pronounced, had sold his birthright, like Esau, for a mess o’ pottage.

‘But wha cookit the parritch for him?’ exclaimed the Bailie; ‘I wad like to ken that; — wha but your honour’s to command, Duncan Macwheeble? His honour, young Mr. Wauverley, put it a’ into my hand frae the beginning — frae the first calling o’ the summons, as I may say. I circumvented them — I played at bogle about the bush wi’ them — I cajolled them; and if I havena gien Inch-Grabbit and Jamie Howie a bonnie begunk, they ken themselves. Him a writer! I didna gae slapdash to them wi’ our young bra’ bridegroom, to gar them baud up the market. Na, na; I scared them wi’ our wild tenantry, and the Mac-Ivors, that are but ill settled yet, till they durstna on ony errand whatsoever gang ower the doorstane after gloaming, for fear John Heatherblutter, or some siccan dare-the-deil, should tak a baff at them; then, on the other hand, I beflummed them wi’ Colonel Talbot; wad they offer to keep up the price again’ the Duke’s friend? did they na ken wha was master? had they na seen eneugh, by the sad example of mony a puir misguided unhappy body — ’

‘Who went to Derby, for example, Mr. Macwheeble?’ said the Colonel to him aside.

‘O whisht, Colonel, for the love o’ God! let that flee stick i’ the wa’. There were mony good folk at Derby; and it’s ill speaking of halters’ — with a sly cast of his eye toward the Baron, who was in a deep reverie.

Starting out of it at once, he took Macwheeble by the button and led him into one of the deep window recesses, whence only fragments of their conversation reached the rest of the party. It certainly related to stamp-paper and parchment; for no other subject, even from the mouth of his patron, and he once more an efficient one, could have arrested so deeply the Bailie’s reverent and absorbed attention.

‘I understand your honour perfectly; it can be dune as easy as taking out a decreet in absence.’

‘To her and him, after my demise, and to their heirs-male, but preferring the second son, if God shall bless them with two, who is to carry the name and arms of Bradwardine of that ilk, without any other name or armorial bearings whatsoever.’

‘Tut, your honour!’ whispered the Bailie, ‘I’ll mak a slight jotting the morn; it will cost but a charter of resignation in favorem; and I’ll hae it ready for the next term in Exchequer.’

Their private conversation ended, the Baron was now summoned to do the honours of Tully-Veolan to new guests. These were Major Melville of Cairnvreckan and the Reverend Mr. Morton, followed by two or three others of the Baron’s acquaintances, who had been made privy to his having again acquired the estate of his fathers. The shouts of the villagers were also heard beneath in the court-yard; for Saunders Saunderson, who had kept the secret for several days with laudable prudence, had unloosed his tongue upon beholding the arrival of the carriages.

But, while Edward received Major Melville with politeness and the clergyman with the most affectionate and grateful kindness, his father-in-law looked a little awkward, as uncertain how he should answer the necessary claims of hospitality to his guests, and forward the festivity of his tenants. Lady Emily relieved him by intimating that, though she must be an indifferent representative of Mrs. Edward Waverley in many respects, she hoped the Baron would approve of the entertainment she had ordered in expectation of so many guests; and that they would find such other accommodations provided as might in some degree support the ancient hospitality of Tully-Veolan. It is impossible to describe the pleasure which this assurance gave the Baron, who, with an air of gallantry half appertaining to the stiff Scottish laird and half to the officer in the French service, offered his arm to the fair speaker, and led the way, in something between a stride and a minuet step, into the large dining parlour, followed by all the rest of the good company.

By dint of Saunderson’s directions and exertions, all here, as well as in the other apartments, had been disposed as much as possible according to the old arrangement; and where new movables had been necessary, they had been selected in the same character with the old furniture. There was one addition to this fine old apartment, however, which drew tears into the Baron’s eyes. It was a large and spirited painting, representing Fergus Mac-Ivor and Waverley in their Highland dress, the scene a wild, rocky, and mountainous pass, down which the clan were descending in the background. It was taken from a spirited sketch, drawn while they were in Edinburgh by a young man of high genius, and had been painted on a full-length scale by an eminent London artist. Raeburn himself (whose ‘Highland Chiefs’ do all but walk out of the canvas) could not have done more justice to the subject; and the ardent, fiery, and impetuous character of the unfortunate Chief of Glennaquoich was finely contrasted with the contemplative, fanciful, and enthusiastic expression of his happier friend. Beside this painting hung the arms which Waverley had borne in the unfortunate civil war. The whole piece was beheld with admiration and deeper feelings.

Men must, however, eat, in spite both of sentiment and vertu; and the Baron, while he assumed the lower end of the table, insisted that Lady Emily should do the honours of the head, that they might, he said, set a meet example to the YOUNG FOLK. After a pause of deliberation, employed in adjusting in his own brain the precedence between the Presbyterian kirk and Episcopal church of Scotland, he requested Mr. Morton, as the stranger, would crave a blessing, observing that Mr. Rubrick, who was at HOME, would return thanks for the distinguished mercies it had been his lot to experience. The dinner was excellent. Saunderson attended in full costume, with all the former domestics, who had been collected, excepting one or two, that had not been heard of since the affair of Culloden. The cellars were stocked with wine which was pronounced to be superb, and it had been contrived that the Bear of the Fountain, in the courtyard, should (for that night only) play excellent brandy punch for the benefit of the lower orders.

When the dinner was over the Baron, about to propose a toast, cast a somewhat sorrowful look upon the sideboard, which, however, exhibited much of his plate, that had either been secreted or purchased by neighbouring gentlemen from the soldiery, and by them gladly restored to the original owner.

“In the late times,” he said, “those must be thankful who have saved life and land; yet when I am about to pronounce this toast, I cannot but regret an old heirloom, Lady Emily, a POCULUM POTATORIUM, Colonel Talbot — ”

Here the Baron’s elbow was gently touched by his major-domo, and, turning round, he beheld in the hands of Alexander ab Alexandro the celebrated cup of Saint Duthac, the Blessed Bear of Bradwardine! I question if the recovery of his estate afforded him more rapture. “By my honour,” he said, “one might almost believe in brownies and fairies, Lady Emily, when your ladyship is in presence!”

“I am truly happy,” said Colonel Talbot, “that, by the recovery of this piece of family antiquity, it has fallen within my power to give you some token of my deep interest in all that concerns my young friend Edward. But that you may not suspect Lady Emily for a sorceress, or me for a conjuror, which is no joke in Scotland, I must tell you that Frank Stanley, your friend, who has been seized with a tartan fever ever since he heard Edward’s tales of old Scottish manners, happened to describe to us at second-hand this remarkable cup. My servant, Spontoon, who, like a true old soldier, observes everything and says little, gave me afterwards to understand that he thought he had seen the piece of plate Mr. Stanley mentioned in the possession of a certain Mrs. Nosebag, who, having been originally the helpmate of a pawnbroker, had found opportunity during the late unpleasant scenes in Scotland to trade a little in her old line, and so became the depositary of the more valuable part of the spoil of half the army. You may believe the cup was speedily recovered; and it will give me very great pleasure if you allow me to suppose that its value is not diminished by having been restored through my means.”

A tear mingled with the wine which the Baron filled, as he proposed a cup of gratitude to Colonel Talbot, and ‘The Prosperity of the united Houses of Waverley-Honour and Bradwardine!’

It only remains for me to say that, as no wish was ever uttered with more affectionate sincerity, there are few which, allowing for the necessary mutability of human events, have been upon the whole more happily fulfilled.

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