Waverly Chapter VI - A Volunteer Sixty Years Since
by Sir Walter Scott
On hearing the unwelcome sound of the drum, Major Melville hastily
opened a sashed door and stepped out upon a sort of terrace which
divided his house from the highroad from which the martial music
proceeded. Waverley and his new friend followed him, though
probably he would have dispensed with their attendance. They soon
recognised in solemn march, first, the performer upon the drum;
secondly, a large flag of four compartments, on which were
inscribed the words, COVENANT, KIRK, KING, KINGDOMS. The person
who was honoured with this charge was followed by the commander of
the party, a thin, dark, rigid-looking man, about sixty years old.
The spiritual pride, which in mine host of the Candlestick mantled
in a sort of supercilious hypocrisy, was in this man's face
elevated and yet darkened by genuine and undoubting fanaticism. It
was impossible to behold him without imagination placing him in
some strange crisis, where religious zeal was the ruling
principle. A martyr at the stake, a soldier in the field, a lonely
and banished wanderer consoled by the intensity and supposed
purity of his faith under every earthly privation, perhaps a
persecuting inquisitor, as terrific in power as unyielding in
adversity; any of these seemed congenial characters to this
personage. With these high traits of energy, there was something
in the affected precision and solemnity of his deportment and
discourse that bordered upon the ludicrous; so that, according to
the mood of the spectator's mind and the light under which Mr.
Gilfillan presented himself, one might have feared, admired, or
laughed at him. His dress was that of a West-Country peasant, of
better materials indeed than that of the lower rank, but in no
respect affecting either the mode of the age or of the Scottish
gentry at any period. His arms were a broadsword and pistols,
which, from the antiquity of their appearance, might have seen the
rout of Pentland or Bothwell Brigg.
As he came up a few steps to meet Major Melville, and touched
solemnly, but slightly, his huge and over-brimmed blue bonnet, in
answer to the Major, who had courteously raised a small triangular
gold-laced hat, Waverley was irresistibly impressed with the idea
that he beheld a leader of the Roundheads of yore in conference
with one of Marlborough's captains.
The group of about thirty armed men who followed this gifted
commander was of a motley description. They were in ordinary
Lowland dresses, of different colours, which, contrasted with the
arms they bore, gave them an irregular and mobbish appearance; so
much is the eye accustomed to connect uniformity of dress with the
military character. In front were a few who apparently partook of
their leader's enthusiasm, men obviously to be feared in a combat,
where their natural courage was exalted by religious zeal. Others
puffed and strutted, filled with the importance of carrying arms
and all the novelty of their situation, while the rest, apparently
fatigued with their march, dragged their limbs listlessly along,
or straggled from their companions to procure such refreshments as
the neighbouring cottages and alehouses afforded. Six grenadiers
of Ligonier's, thought the Major to himself, as his mind reverted
to his own military experience, would have sent all these fellows
to the right about.
Greeting, however, Mr. Gilfillan civilly, he requested to know if
he had received the letter he had sent to him upon his march, and
could undertake the charge of the state prisoner whom he there
mentioned as far as Stirling Castle. 'Yea,' was the concise reply
of the Cameronian leader, in a voice which seemed to issue from
the very penetralia of his person.
'But your escort, Mr. Gilfillan, is not so strong as I expected,'
said Major Melville.
'Some of the people,' replied Gilfillan, 'hungered and were
athirst by the way, and tarried until their poor souls were
refreshed with the word.'
'I am sorry, sir,' replied the Major, 'you did not trust to your
refreshing your men at Cairnvreckan; whatever my house contains is
at the command of persons employed in the service.'
'It was not of creature-comforts I spake,' answered the
Covenanter, regarding Major Melville with something like a smile
of contempt; 'howbeit, I thank you; but the people remained
waiting upon the precious Mr. Jabesh Rentowel for the out-pouring
of the afternoon exhortation.'
'And have you, sir,' said the Major, 'when the rebels are about
spread themselves through this country, actually left a great part
of your command at a fieldpreaching?'
Gilfillan again smiled scornfully as he made this indirect
answer—'Even thus are the children of this world wiser in their
generation than the children of light!'
'However, sir,' said the Major, 'as you are to take charge of
gentleman to Stirling, and deliver him, with these papers, into
the hands of Governor Blakeney, I beseech you to observe some
rules of military discipline upon your march. For example, I would
advise you to keep your men more closely together, and that each
in his march should cover his file-leader, instead of straggling
like geese upon a common; and, for fear of surprise, I further
recommend to you to form a small advance-party of your best men,
with a single vidette in front of the whole march, so that when
you approach a village or a wood'—(here the Major interrupted
himself)—'But as I don't observe you listen to me, Mr.
Gilfillan, I suppose I need not give myself the trouble to say
more upon the subject. You are a better judge, unquestionably,
than I am of the measures to be pursued; but one thing I would
have you well aware of, that you are to treat this gentleman, your
prisoner, with no rigour nor incivility, and are to subject him to
no other restraint than is necessary for his security.'
'I have looked into my commission,' said Mr. Gilfillan,'
subscribed by a worthy and professing nobleman, William, Earl of
Glencairn; nor do I find it therein set down that I am to receive
any charges or commands anent my doings from Major William
Melville of Cairnvreckan.'
Major Melville reddened even to the well-powdered ears which
appeared beneath his neat military sidecurls, the more so as he
observed Mr. Morton smile at the same moment. 'Mr. Gilfillan,' he
answered, with some asperity, 'I beg ten thousand pardons for
interfering with a person of your importance. I thought, however,
that as you have been bred a grazier, if I mistake not, there
might be occasion to remind you of the difference between
Highlanders and Highland cattle; and if you should happen to meet
with any gentleman who has seen service, and is disposed to speak
upon the subject, I should still imagine that listening to him
would do you no sort of harm. But I have done, and have only once
more to recommend this gentleman to your civility as well as to
your custody. Mr. Waverley, I am truly sorry we should part in
this way; but I trust, when you are again in this country, I may
have an opportunity to render Cairnvreckan more agreeable than
circumstances have permitted on this occasion.'
So saying, he shook our hero by the hand. Morton also took an
affectionate farewell, and Waverley, having mounted his horse,
with a musketeer leading it by the bridle and a file upon each
side to prevent his escape, set forward upon the march with
Gilfillan and his party. Through the little village they were
accompanied with the shouts of the children, who cried out, 'Eh!
see to the Southland gentleman that's gaun to be hanged for
shooting lang John Mucklewrath, the smith!