Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter IX

More of the Manor-House and its Environs

After having satisfied his curiosity by gazing around him for a few minutes, Waverley applied himself to the massive knocker of the hall-door, the architrave of which bore the date 1594. But no answer was returned, though the peal resounded through a number of apartments, and was echoed from the court-yard walls without the house, startling the pigeons from the venerable rotunda which they occupied, and alarming anew even the distant village curs, which had retired to sleep upon their respective dunghills. Tired of the din which he created, and the unprofitable responses which it excited, Waverley began to think that he had reached the castle of Orgoglio as entered by the victorious Prince Arthur, —

When ‘gan he loudly through the house to call,

But no man cared to answer to his cry;

There reign’d a solemn silence over all,

Nor voice was heard, nor wight was seen in bower or hall.

Filled almost with expectation of beholding some ‘old, old man, with beard as white as snow,’ whom he might question concerning this deserted mansion, our hero turned to a little oaken wicket-door, well clenched with iron-nails, which opened in the court-yard wall at its angle with the house. It was only latched, notwithstanding its fortified appearance, and, when opened, admitted him into the garden, which presented a pleasant scene. 25 The southern side of the house, clothed with fruit-trees, and having many evergreens trained upon its walls, extended its irregular yet venerable front along a terrace, partly paved, partly gravelled, partly bordered with flowers and choice shrubs. This elevation descended by three several flights of steps, placed in its centre and at the extremities, into what might be called the garden proper, and was fenced along the top by a stone parapet with a heavy balustrade, ornamented from space to space with huge grotesque figures of animals seated upon their haunches, among which the favourite bear was repeatedly introduced. Placed in the middle of the terrace between a sashed-door opening from the house and the central flight of steps, a huge animal of the same species supported on his head and fore-paws a sun-dial of large circumference, inscribed with more diagrams than Edward’s mathematics enabled him to decipher.

The garden, which seemed to be kept with great accuracy, abounded in fruit-trees, and exhibited a profusion of flowers and evergreens, cut into grotesque forms. It was laid out in terraces, which descended rank by rank from the western wall to a large brook, which had a tranquil and smooth appearance, where it served as a boundary to the garden; but, near the extremity, leapt in tumult over a strong dam, or wear-head, the cause of its temporary tranquillity, and there forming a cascade, was overlooked by an octangular summer-house, with a gilded bear on the top by way of vane. After this feat, the brook, assuming its natural rapid and fierce character, escaped from the eye down a deep and wooded dell, from the copse of which arose a massive, but ruinous tower, the former habitation of the Barons of Bradwardine. The margin of the brook, opposite to the garden, displayed a narrow meadow, or haugh, as it was called, which formed a small washing-green; the bank, which retired behind it, was covered by ancient trees.

The scene, though pleasing, was not quite equal to the gardens of Alcina; yet wanted not the ‘due donzellette garrule’ of that enchanted paradise, for upon the green aforesaid two bare-legged damsels, each standing in a spacious tub, performed with their feet the office of a patent washing-machine. These did not, however, like the maidens of Armida, remain to greet with their harmony the approaching guest, but, alarmed at the appearance of a handsome stranger on the opposite side, dropped their garments (I should say garment, to be quite correct) over their limbs, which their occupation exposed somewhat too freely, and, with a shrill exclamation of ‘Eh, sirs!’ uttered with an accent between modesty and coquetry, sprung off like deer in different directions.

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“Eh, Sirs! — Original Etching by George Cruickshank

Waverley began to despair of gaining entrance into this solitary and seemingly enchanted mansion, when a man advanced up one of the garden alleys, where he still retained his station. Trusting this might be a gardener, or some domestic belonging to the house, Edward descended the steps in order to meet him; but as the figure approached, and long before he could descry its features, he was struck with the oddity of its appearance and gestures. Sometimes this mister wight held his hands clasped over his head, like an Indian Jogue in the attitude of penance; sometimes he swung them perpendicularly, like a pendulum, on each side; and anon he slapped them swiftly and repeatedly across his breast, like the substitute used by a hackney-coachman for his usual flogging exercise, when his cattle are idle upon the stand, in a clear frosty day. His gait was as singular as his gestures, for at times he hopped with great perseverance on the right foot, then exchanged that supporter to advance in the same manner on the left, and then putting his feet close together he hopped upon both at once. His attire also was antiquated and extravagant. It consisted in a sort of grey jerkin, with scarlet cuffs and slashed sleeves, showing a scarlet lining; the other parts of the dress corresponded in colour, not forgetting a pair of scarlet stockings, and a scarlet bonnet, proudly surmounted with a turkey’s feather. Edward, whom he did not seem to observe, now perceived confirmation in his features of what the mien and gestures had already announced. It was apparently neither idiocy nor insanity which gave that wild, unsettled, irregular expression to a face which naturally was rather handsome, but something that resembled a compound of both, where the simplicity of the fool was mixed with the extravagance of a crazed imagination. He sung with great earnestness, and not without some taste, a fragment of an old Scottish ditty:—

False love, and hast thou play’d me this

In summer among the flowers?

I will repay thee back again

In winter among the showers.

Unless again, again, my love,

Unless you turn again;

As you with other maidens rove,

I’ll smile on other men. 26

Here lifting up his eyes, which had hitherto been fixed in observing how his feet kept time to the tune, he beheld Waverley, and instantly doffed his cap, with many grotesque signals of surprise, respect, and salutation. Edward, though with little hope of receiving an answer to any constant question, requested to know whether Mr. Bradwardine were at home, or where he could find any of the domestics. The questioned party replied, and, like the witch of Thalaba, ‘still his speech was song,’ —

The Knight’s to the mountain

His bugle to wind;

The Lady’s to greenwood

Her garland to bind.

The bower of Burd Ellen

Has moss on the floor,

That the step of Lord William

Be silent and sure.

This conveyed no information, and Edward, repeating his queries, received a rapid answer, in which, from the haste and peculiarity of the dialect, the word ‘butler’ was alone intelligible. Waverley then requested to see the butler; upon which the fellow, with a knowing look and nod of intelligence, made a signal to Edward to follow, and began to dance and caper down the alley up which he had made his approaches. A strange guide this, thought Edward, and not much unlike one of Shakespeare’s roynish clowns. I am not over prudent to trust to his pilotage; but wiser men have been led by fools. By this time he reached the bottom of the alley, where, turning short on a little parterre of flowers, shrouded from the east and north by a close yew hedge, he found an old man at work without his coat, whose appearance hovered between that of an upper servant and gardener; his red nose and ruffled shirt belonging to the former profession; his hale and sunburnt visage, with his green apron, appearing to indicate

Old Adam’s likeness, set to dress this garden.

The major domo, for such he was, and indisputably the second officer of state in the barony (nay, as chief minister of the interior, superior even to Bailie Macwheeble in his own department of the kitchen and cellar) — the major domo laid down his spade, slipped on his coat in haste, and with a wrathful look at Edward’s guide, probably excited by his having introduced a stranger while he was engaged in this laborious, and, as he might suppose it, degrading office, requested to know the gentleman’s commands. Being informed that he wished to pay his respects to his master, that his name was Waverley, and so forth, the old man’s countenance assumed a great deal of respectful importance. ‘He could take it upon his conscience to say, his honour would have exceeding pleasure in seeing him. Would not Mr. Waverley choose some refreshment after his journey? His honour was with the folk who were getting doon the dark hag; the twa gardener lads (an emphasis on the word twa) had been ordered to attend him; and he had been just amusing himself in the mean time with dressing Miss Rose’s flower-bed, that he might be near to receive his honour’s orders, if need were; he was very fond of a garden, but had little time for such divertisements.’

‘He canna get it wrought in abune twa days in the week at no rate whatever,’ said Edward’s fantastic conductor.

A grim look from the butler chastised his interference, and he commanded him, by the name of Davie Gellatley, in a tone which admitted no discussion, to look for his honour at the dark hag, and tell him there was a gentleman from the south had arrived at the Ha’.

‘Can this poor fellow deliver a letter?’ asked Edward.

‘With all fidelity, sir, to any one whom he respects. I would hardly trust him with a long message by word of mouth — though he is more knave than fool.’

Waverley delivered his credentials to Mr. Gellatley, who seemed to confirm the butler’s last observation, by twisting his features at him, when he was looking another way, into the resemblance of the grotesque face on the bole of a German tobacco pipe; after which, with an odd conge to Waverley, he danced off to discharge his errand.

‘He is an innocent, sir,’ said the butler; ‘there is one such in almost every town in the country, but ours is brought far ben.27 He used to work a day’s turn weel enough; but he helped Miss Rose when she was flemit with the Laird of Killancureit’s new English bull, and since that time we ca’ him Davie Do-little; indeed we might ca’ him Davie Do-naething, for since he got that gay clothing, to please his honour and my young mistress (great folks will have their fancies), he has done naething but dance up and down about the toun, without doing a single turn, unless trimming the laird’s fishing-wand or busking his flies, or may be catching a dish of trouts at an orra time. But here comes Miss Rose, who, I take burden upon me for her, will be especial glad to see one of the house of Waverley at her father’s mansion of Tully-Veolan.’

But Rose Bradwardine deserves better of her unworthy historian than to be introduced at the end of a chapter.

In the mean while it may be noticed, that Waverley learned two things from this colloquy: that in Scotland a single house was called a TOWN, and a natural fool an INNOCENT.

25 At Ravelston may be seen such a garden, which the taste of the proprietor, the author’s friend and kinsman, Sir Alexander Keith, Knight Mareschal, has judiciously preserved. That, as well as the house is, however, of smaller dimensions than the Baron of Bradwardine’s mansion and garden are presumed to have been.

26 This is a genuine ancient fragment, with some alteration in the two last lines.

27 I am ignorant how long the ancient and established custom of keeping fools has been disused in England. Swift writes an epitaph on the Earl of Suffolk’s fool —

Whose name was Dickie Pearce

In Scotland, the custom subsisted till late in the last century; at Glamis Castle is preserved the dress of one of the jesters, very handsome, and ornamented with many bells. It is not above thirty years since such a character stood by the sideboard of a nobleman of the first rank in Scotland, and occasionally mixed in the conversation, till he carried the joke rather too far, in making proposals to one of the young ladies of the family, and publishing the bans betwixt her and himself in the public church.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter9.html

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