- Waverly (Chapter VII - A Horse-Quarter in Scotland) by Sir Walter Scott
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Chapter VII - A Horse-Quarter in Scotland

by Sir Walter Scott

The next morning, amid varied feelings, the chief of which was a predominant, anxious, and even solemn impression, that he was now in a great measure abandoned to his own guidance and direction, Edward Waverley departed from the Hall amid the blessings and tears of all the old domestics and the inhabitants of the village, mingled with some sly petitions for sergeantcies and corporalships, and so forth, on the part of those who professed that 'they never thoft to ha' seen Jacob, and Giles, and Jonathan go off for soldiers, save to attend his honour, as in duty bound.' Edward, as in duty bound, extricated himself from the supplicants with the pledge of fewer promises than might have been expected from a young man so little accustomed to the world. After a short visit to London, he proceeded on horseback, then the general mode of travelling, to Edinburgh, and from thence to Dundee, a seaport on the eastern coast of Angus-shire, where his regiment was then quartered.

He now entered upon a new world, where, for a time, all was beautiful because all was new. Colonel Gardiner, the commanding officer of the regiment, was himself a study for a romantic, and at the same time an inquisitive youth. In person he was tall, handsome, and active, though somewhat advanced in life. In his early years he had been what is called, by manner of palliative, a very gay young man, and strange stories were circulated about his sudden conversion from doubt, if not infidelity, to a serious and even enthusiastic turn of mind. It was whispered that a supernatural communication, of a nature obvious even to the exterior senses, had produced this wonderful change; and though some mentioned the proselyte as an enthusiast, none hinted at his being a hypocrite. This singular and mystical circumstance gave Colonel Gardiner a peculiar and solemn interest in the eyes of the young soldier. [Footnote: See Note 5.] It may be easily imagined that the officers, of a regiment commanded by so respectable a person composed a society more sedate and orderly than a military mess always exhibits; and that Waverley escaped some temptations to which he might otherwise have been exposed.

Meanwhile his military education proceeded. Already a good horseman, he was now initiated into the arts of the manege, which, when carried to perfection, almost realise the fable of the Centaur, the guidance of the horse appearing to proceed from the rider's mere volition, rather than from the use of any external and apparent signal of motion. He received also instructions in his field duty; but I must own, that when his first ardour was past, his progress fell short in the latter particular of what he wished and expected. The duty of an officer, the most imposing of all others to the inexperienced mind, because accompanied with so much outward pomp and circumstance, is in its essence a very dry and abstract task, depending chiefly upon arithmetical combinations, requiring much attention, and a cool and reasoning head to bring them into action. Our hero was liable to fits of absence, in which his blunders excited some mirth, and called down some reproof. This circumstance impressed him with a painful sense of inferiority in those qualities which appeared most to deserve and obtain regard in his new profession. He asked himself in vain, why his eye could not judge of distance or space so well as those of his companions; why his head was not always successful in disentangling the various partial movements necessary to execute a particular evolution; and why his memory, so alert upon most occasions, did not correctly retain technical phrases and minute points of etiquette or field discipline. Waverley was naturally modest, and therefore did not fall into the egregious mistake of supposing such minuter rules of military duty beneath his notice, or conceiting himself to be born a general, because he made an indifferent subaltern. The truth was, that the vague and unsatisfactory course of reading which he had pursued, working upon a temper naturally retired and abstracted, had given him that wavering and unsettled habit of mind which is most averse to study and riveted attention. Time, in the mean while, hung heavy on his hands. The gentry of the neighbourhood were disaffected, and showed little hospitality to the military guests; and the people of the town, chiefly engaged in mercantile pursuits, were not such as Waverley chose to associate with. The arrival of summer, and a curiosity to know something more of Scotland than he could see in a ride from his quarters, determined him to request leave of absence for a few weeks. He resolved first to visit his uncle's ancient friend and correspondent, with the purpose of extending or shortening the time of his residence according to circumstances. He travelled of course on horse-back, and with a single attendant, and passed his first night at a miserable inn, where the landlady had neither shoes nor stockings, and the landlord, who called himself a gentleman, was disposed to be rude to his guest, because he had not bespoke the pleasure of his society to supper. [Footnote: See Note 6.] The next day, traversing an open and uninclosed country, Edward gradually approached the Highlands of Perthshire, which at first had appeared a blue outline in the horizon, but now swelled into huge gigantic masses, which frowned defiance over the more level country that lay beneath them. Near the bottom of this stupendous barrier, but still in the Lowland country, dwelt Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine of Bradwardine; and, if grey-haired eld can be in aught believed, there had dwelt his ancestors, with all their heritage, since the days of the gracious King Duncan.

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