Waverly Chapter XXV - 'To One Thing Constant Never'
by Sir Walter Scott
'I am the very child of caprice,'said Waverley to himself, as he
bolted the door of his apartment and paced it with hasty steps.
'What is it to me that Fergus Mac-Ivor should wish to marry Rose
Bradwardine? I love her not; I might have been loved by her
perhaps; but rejected her simple, natural, and affecting
attachment, instead of cherishing it into tenderness, and
dedicated myself to one who will never love mortal man, unless old
Warwick, the King-maker, should arise from the dead The Baron
too—I would not have cared about his estate, and so the name would
have been no stumbling-block. The devil might have taken the
barren moors and drawn off the royal caligae for anything I would
have minded. But, framed as she is for domestic affection and
tenderness, for giving and receiving all those kind and quiet
attentions which sweeten life to those who pass it together, she
is sought by Fergus Mac-Ivor. He will not use her ill, to be sure;
of that he is incapable. But he will neglect her after the first
month; he will be too intent on subduing some rival chieftain or
circumventing some favourite at court, on gaining some heathy hill
and lake or adding to his bands some new troop of caterans, to
inquire what she does, or how she amuses herself.
And then will canker sorrow eat her bud,
And chase the native beauty from her cheek;
And she will look as hollow as a ghost,
And dim and meagre as an ague fit,
And so she'll die.
And such a catastrophe of the most gentle creature on earth might
have been prevented if Mr. Edward Waverley had had his eyes! Upon
my word, I cannot understand how I thought Flora so much, that is,
so very much, handsomer than Rose. She is taller indeed, and her
manner more formed; but many people think Miss Bradwardine's more
natural; and she is certainly much younger. I should think Flora
is two years older than I am. I will look at them particularly
And with this resolution Waverley went to drink tea (as the
fashion was Sixty Years Since) at the house of a lady of quality
attached to the cause of the Chevalier, where he found, as he
expected, both the ladies. All rose as he entered, but Flora
immediately resumed her place and the conversation in which she
was engaged. Rose, on the contrary, almost imperceptibly made a
little way in the crowded circle for his advancing the corner of a
chair. 'Her manner, upon the whole, is most engaging,' said
Waverley to himself.
A dispute occurred whether the Gaelic or Italian language was
liquid, and best adapted for poetry; the opinion for the Gaelic,
which probably might not have found supporters elsewhere, was here
fiercely defended by seven Highland ladies, who talked at the top
of their lungs, and screamed the company deaf with examples of
Celtic euphonia. Flora, observing the Lowland ladies sneer at the
comparison, produced some reasons to show that it was not
altogether so absurd; but Rose, when asked for her opinion, gave
it with animation in praise of Italian, which she had studied with
Waverley's assistance. "She has a more correct ear than Flora,
though a less accomplished musician," said Waverley to himself. 'I
suppose Miss Mac-Ivor will next compare Mac-Murrough nan Fonn to
Lastly, it so befell that the company differed whether Fergus
should be asked to perform on the flute, at which he was an adept,
or Waverley invited to read a play of Shakspeare; and the lady of
the house good-humouredly undertook to collect the votes of the
company for poetry or music, under the condition that the
gentleman whose talents were not laid under contribution that
evening should contribute them to enliven the next. It chanced
that Rose had the casting vote. Now Flora, who seemed to impose it
as a rule upon herself never to countenance any proposal which
might seem to encourage Waverley, had voted for music, providing
the Baron would take his violin to accompany Fergus. 'I wish you
joy of your taste, Miss Mac-Ivor,' thought Edward, as they sought
for his book. 'I thought it better when we were at Glennaquoich;
but certainly the Baron is no great performer, and Shakspeare is
worth listening to.'
'Romeo and Juliet' was selected, and Edward read with taste,
feeling, and spirit several scenes from that play. All the company
applauded with their hands, and many with their tears. Flora, to
whom the drama was well known, was among the former; Rose, to whom
it was altogether new, belonged to the latter class of admirers.
'She has more feeling too,' said Waverley, internally.
The conversation turning upon the incidents of the play and upon
the characters, Fergus declared that the only one worth naming, as
a man of fashion and spirit, was Mercutio. 'I could not,' he said,
'quite follow all his old-fashioned wit, but he must have been a
very pretty fellow, according to the ideas of his time.'
'And it was a shame,' said Ensign Maccombich, who usually
his Colonel everywhere, 'for that Tibbert, or Taggart, or whatever
was his name, to stick him under the other gentleman's arm while
he was redding the fray.'
The ladies, of course, declared loudly in favour of Romeo, but
this opinion did not go undisputed. The mistress of the house and
several other ladies severely reprobated the levity with which the
hero transfers his affections from Rosalind to Juliet. Flora
remained silent until her opinion was repeatedly requested, and
then answered, she thought the circumstance objected to not only
reconcilable to nature, but such as in the highest degree evinced
the art of the poet. 'Romeo is described,' said she, 'as a young
man peculiarly susceptible of the softer passions; his love is at
first fixed upon a woman who could afford it no return; this he
repeatedly tells you,—
From love's weak, childish bow she lives unharmed,
She hath forsworn to love.
Now, as it was impossible that Romeo's love, supposing him a
reasonable being, could continue to subsist without hope, the poet
has, with great art, seized the moment when he was reduced
actually to despair to throw in his way an object more
accomplished than her by whom he had been rejected, and who is
disposed to repay his attachment. I can scarce conceive a
situation more calculated to enhance the ardour of Romeo's
affection for Juliet than his being at once raised by her from the
state of drooping melancholy in which he appears first upon the
scene to the ecstatic state in which he exclaims—
—come what sorrow can,
It cannot countervail the exchange of joy
That one short moment gives me in her sight.'
'Good now, Miss Mac-Ivor,' said a young lady of quality, 'do you
mean to cheat us out of our prerogative? will you persuade us love
cannot subsist without hope, or that the lover must become fickle
if the lady is cruel? O fie! I did not expect such an
'A lover, my dear Lady Betty,' said Flora, 'may, I conceive,
persevere in his suit under very discouraging circumstances.
Affection can (now and then) withstand very severe storms of
rigour, but not a long polar frost of downright indifference.
Don't, even with YOUR attractions, try the experiment upon any
lover whose faith you value. Love will subsist on wonderfully
little hope, but not altogether without it.'
'It will be just like Duncan Mac-Girdie's mare,' said Evan, 'if
your ladyships please, he wanted to use her by degrees to live
without meat, and just as he had put her on a straw a day the poor
Evan's illustration set the company a-laughing, and the discourse
took a different turn. Shortly afterwards the party broke up, and
Edward returned home, musing on what Flora had said. 'I will love
my Rosalind no more,' said he; 'she has given me a broad enough
hint for that; and I will speak to her brother and resign my suit.
But for a Juliet—would it be handsome to interfere with Fergus's
pretensions? though it is impossible they can ever succeed; and
should they miscarry, what then? why then alors comme alors.' And
with this resolution of being guided by circumstances did our hero
commit himself to repose.