Waverly Chapter III - A Conference and the Consequence
by Sir Walter Scott
Major Melville had detained Mr. Morton during his examination of
Waverley, both because he thought he might derive assistance from
his practical good sense and approved loyalty, and also because it
was agreeable to have a witness of unimpeached candour and
veracity to proceedings which touched the honour and safety of a
young Englishman of high rank and family, and the expectant heir
of a large fortune. Every step he knew would be rigorously
canvassed, and it was his business to place the justice and
integrity of his own conduct beyond the limits of question.
When Waverley retired, the laird and clergyman of Cairnvreckan
down in silence to their evening meal. While the servants were in
attendance neither chose to say anything on the circumstances
which occupied their minds, and neither felt it easy to speak upon
any other. The youth and apparent frankness of Waverley stood in
strong contrast to the shades of suspicion which darkened around
him, and he had a sort of naivete and openness of demeanour that
seemed to belong to one unhackneyed in the ways of intrigue, and
which pleaded highly in his favour.
Each mused over the particulars of the examination, and each
viewed it through the medium of his own feelings. Both were men of
ready and acute talent, and both were equally competent to combine
various parts of evidence, and to deduce from them the necessary
conclusions. But the wide difference of their habits and education
often occasioned a great discrepancy in their respective
deductions from admitted premises.
Major Melville had been versed in camps and cities; he was
vigilant by profession and cautious from experience, had met with
much evil in the world, and therefore, though himself an upright
magistrate and an honourable man, his opinions of others were
always strict, and sometimes unjustly severe. Mr. Morton, on the
contrary, had passed from the literary pursuits of a college,
where he was beloved by his companions and respected by his
teachers, to the ease and simplicity of his present charge, where
his opportunities of witnessing evil were few, and never dwelt
upon but in order to encourage repentance and amendment; and where
the love and respect of his parishioners repaid his affectionate
zeal in their behalf by endeavouring to disguise from him what
they knew would give him the most acute pain, namely, their own
occasional transgressions of the duties which it was the business
of his life to recommend. Thus it was a common saying in the
neighbourhood (though both were popular characters), that the
laird knew only the ill in the parish and the minister only the
A love of letters, though kept in subordination to his clerical
studies and duties, also distinguished the pastor of Cairnvreckan,
and had tinged his mind in earlier days with a slight feeling of
romance, which no after incidents of real life had entirely
dissipated. The early loss of an amiable young woman whom he had
married for love, and who was quickly followed to the grave by an
only child, had also served, even after the lapse of many years,
to soften a disposition naturally mild and contemplative. His
feelings on the present occasion were therefore likely to differ
from those of the severe disciplinarian, strict magistrate, and
distrustful man of the world.
When the servants had withdrawn, the silence of both parties
continued, until Major Melville, filling his glass and pushing the
bottle to Mr. Morton, commenced—
'A distressing affair this, Mr. Morton. I fear this youngster has
brought himself within the compass of a halter.'
'God forbid!' answered the clergyman.
'Marry, and amen,' said the temporal magistrate; 'but I think
your merciful logic will hardly deny the conclusion.'
'Surely, Major,' answered the clergyman, 'I should hope it might
be averted, for aught we have heard tonight?'
'Indeed!' replied Melville. 'But, my good parson, you are one of
those who would communicate to every criminal the benefit of
'Unquestionably I would. Mercy and long-suffering are the grounds
of the doctrine I am called to teach.'
'True, religiously speaking; but mercy to a criminal may be gross
injustice to the community. I don't speak of this young fellow in
particular, who I heartily wish may be able to clear himself, for
I like both his modesty and his spirit. But I fear he has rushed
upon his fate.'
'And why? Hundreds of misguided gentlemen are now in arms against
the government, many, doubtless, upon principles which education
and early prejudice have gilded with the names of patriotism and
heroism; Justice, when she selects her victims from such a
multitude (for surely all will not be destroyed), must regard the
moral motive. He whom ambition or hope of personal advantage has
led to disturb the peace of a well-ordered government, let him
fall a victim to the laws; but surely youth, misled by the wild
visions of chivalry and imaginary loyalty, may plead for
'If visionary chivalry and imaginary loyalty come within the
predicament of high treason,' replied the magistrate, 'I know no
court in Christendom, my dear Mr. Morton, where they can sue out
their Habeas Corpus.'
'But I cannot see that this youth's guilt is at all established
my satisfaction,' said the clergyman.
'Because your good-nature blinds your good sense,' replied Major
Melville. 'Observe now: This young man, descended of a family of
hereditary Jacobites, his uncle the leader of the Tory interest in
the county of ——, his father a disobliged and discontented
courtier, his tutor a nonjuror and the author of two treasonable
volumes—this youth, I say, enters into Gardiner's dragoons,
bringing with him a body of young fellows from his uncle's estate,
who have not stickled at avowing in their way the High-Church
principles they learned at Waverley-Honour, in their disputes with
their comrades. To these young men Waverley is unusually
attentive; they are supplied with money beyond a soldier's wants
and inconsistent with his discipline; and are under the management
of a favourite sergeant, through whom they hold an unusually close
communication with their captain, and affect to consider
themselves as independent of the other officers, and superior to
'All this, my dear Major, is the natural consequence of their
attachment to their young landlord, and of their finding
themselves in a regiment levied chiefly in the north of Ireland
and the west of Scotland, and of course among comrades disposed to
quarrel with them, both as Englishmen and as members of the Church
'Well said, parson!' replied the magistrate. 'I would some of
synod heard you. But let me go on. This young man obtains leave of
absence, goes to Tully-Veolan—the principles of the Baron of
Bradwardine are pretty well known, not to mention that this lad's
uncle brought him off in the year fifteen; he engages there in a
brawl, in which he is said to have disgraced the commission he
bore; Colonel Gardiner writes to him, first mildly, then more
sharply—I think you will not doubt his having done so, since he
says so; the mess invite him to explain the quarrel in which he is
said to have been involved; he neither replies to his commander
nor his comrades. In the meanwhile his soldiers become mutinous
and disorderly, and at length, when the rumour of this unhappy
rebellion becomes general, his favourite Sergeant Houghton and
another fellow are detected in correspondence with a French
emissary, accredited, as he says, by Captain Waverley, who urges
him, according to the men's confession, to desert with the troop
and join their captain, who was with Prince Charles. In the
meanwhile this trusty captain is, by his own admission, residing
at Glennaquoich with the most active, subtle, and desperate
Jacobite in Scotland; he goes with him at least as far as their
famous hunting rendezvous, and I fear a little farther. Meanwhile
two other summonses are sent him; one warning him of the
disturbances in his troop, another peremptorily ordering him to
repair to the regiment, which, indeed, common sense might have
dictated, when he observed rebellion thickening all round him. He
returns an absolute refusal, and throws up his commission.'
'He had been already deprived of it,' said Mr. Morton.
'But he regrets,' replied Melville, 'that the measure had
anticipated his resignation. His baggage is seized at his quarters
and at Tully-Veolan, and is found to contain a stock of pestilent
Jacobitical pamphlets, enough to poison a whole country, besides
the unprinted lucubrations of his worthy friend and tutor Mr.
'He says he never read them,' answered the minister.
'In an ordinary case I should believe him,' replied the
magistrate, 'for they are as stupid and pedantic in composition as
mischievous in their tenets. But can you suppose anything but
value for the principles they maintain would induce a young man of
his age to lug such trash about with him? Then, when news arrive
of the approach of the rebels, he sets out in a sort of disguise,
refusing to tell his name; and, if yon old fanatic tell truth,
attended by a very suspicious character, and mounted on a horse
known to have belonged to Glennaquoich, and bearing on his person
letters from his family expressing high rancour against the house
of Brunswick, and a copy of verses in praise of one Wogan, who
abjured the service of the Parliament to join the Highland
insurgents, when in arms to restore the house of Stuart, with a
body of English cavalry—the very counterpart of his own plot—and
summed up with a "Go thou and do likewise" from that loyal
subject, and most safe and peaceable character, Fergus Mac-Ivor of
Glennaquoich, Vich Ian Vohr, and so forth. And, lastly,' continued
Major Melville, warming in the detail of his arguments, 'where do
we find this second edition of Cavalier Wogan? Why, truly, in the
very track most proper for execution of his design, and pistolling
the first of the king's subjects who ventures to question his
Mr. Morton prudently abstained from argument, which he perceived
would only harden the magistrate in his opinion, and merely asked
how he intended to dispose of the prisoner?
'It is a question of some difficulty, considering the state of
country,' said Major Melville.
'Could you not detain him (being such a gentleman-like young man)
here in your own house, out of harm's way, till this storm blow
'My good friend,' said Major Melville, 'neither your house nor
mine will be long out of harm's way, even were it legal to confine
him here. I have just learned that the commander-in-chief, who
marched into the Highlands to seek out and disperse the
insurgents, has declined giving them battle at Coryarrick, and
marched on northward with all the disposable force of government
to Inverness, John-o'-Groat's House, or the devil, for what I
know, leaving the road to the Low Country open and undefended to
the Highland army.'
'Good God!' said the clergyman. 'Is the man a coward, a traitor,
or an idiot?'
'None of the three, I believe,' answered Melville. 'Sir John has
the commonplace courage of a common soldier, is honest enough,
does what he is commanded, and understands what is told him, but
is as fit to act for himself in circumstances of importance as I,
my dear parson, to occupy your pulpit.'
This important public intelligence naturally diverted the
discourse from Waverley for some time; at length, however, the
subject was resumed.
'I believe,' said Major Melville, 'that I must give this young
in charge to some of the detached parties of armed volunteers who
were lately sent out to overawe the disaffected districts. They
are now recalled towards Stirling, and a small body comes this way
to-morrow or next day, commanded by the westland man—what's his
name? You saw him, and said he was the very model of one of
Cromwell's military saints.'
'Gilfillan, the Cameronian,' answered Mr. Morton. 'I wish the
young gentleman may be safe with him. Strange things are done in
the heat and hurry of minds in so agitating a crisis, and I fear
Gilfillan is of a sect which has suffered persecution without
'He has only to lodge Mr. Waverley in Stirling Castle,' said the
Major; 'I will give strict injunctions to treat him well. I really
cannot devise any better mode for securing him, and I fancy you
would hardly advise me to encounter the responsibility of setting
him at liberty.'
'But you will have no objection to my seeing him tomorrow in
private?' said the minister.
'None, certainly; your loyalty and character are my warrant. But
with what view do you make the request?'
'Simply,' replied Mr. Morton, 'to make the experiment whether he
may not be brought to communicate to me some circumstances which
may hereafter be useful to alleviate, if not to exculpate, his
The friends now parted and retired to rest, each filled with the
most anxious reflections on the state of the country.