If my fair readers should be of opinion that my hero's levity in
love is altogether unpardonable, I must remind them that all his
griefs and difficulties did not arise from that sentimental
source. Even the lyric poet who complains so feelingly of the
pains of love could not forget, that at the same time he was 'in
debt and in drink,' which, doubtless, were great aggravations of
his distress. There were, indeed, whole days in which Waverley
thought neither of Flora nor Rose Bradwardine, but which were
spent in melancholy conjectures on the probable state of matters
at Waverley-Honour, and the dubious issue of the civil contest in
which he was pledged. Colonel Talbot often engaged him in
discussions upon the justice of the cause he had espoused. 'Not,'
he said, 'that it is possible for you to quit it at this present
moment, for, come what will, you must stand by your rash
engagement. But I wish you to be aware that the right is not with
you; that you are fighting against the real interests of your
country; and that you ought, as an Englishman and a patriot, to
take the first opportunity to leave this unhappy expedition before
the snowball melts.'
In such political disputes Waverley usually opposed the common
arguments of his party, with which it is unnecessary to trouble
the reader. But he had little to say when the Colonel urged him to
compare the strength by which they had undertaken to overthrow the
government with that which was now assembling very rapidly for its
support. To this statement Waverley had but one answer: 'If the
cause I have undertaken be perilous, there would be the greater
disgrace in abandoning it.' And in his turn he generally silenced
Colonel Talbot, and succeeded in changing the subject.
One night, when, after a long dispute of this nature, the friends
had separated and our hero had retired to bed, he was awakened
about midnight by a suppressed groan. He started up and listened;
it came from the apartment of Colonel Talbot, which was divided
from his own by a wainscotted partition, with a door of
communication. Waverley approached this door and distinctly heard
one or two deep-drawn sighs. What could be the matter? The Colonel
had parted from him apparently in his usual state of spirits. He
must have been taken suddenly ill. Under this impression he opened
the door of communication very gently, and perceived the Colonel,
in his night-gown, seated by a table, on which lay a letter and a
picture. He raised his head hastily, as Edward stood uncertain
whether to advance or retire, and Waverley perceived that his
cheeks were stained with tears.
As if ashamed at being found giving way to such emotion, Colonel
Talbot rose with apparent displeasure and said, with some
sternness, 'I think, Mr. Waverley, my own apartment and the hour
might have secured even a prisoner against—'
'Do not say INTRUSION, Colonel Talbot; I heard you breathe hard
and feared you were ill; that alone could have induced me to break
in upon you.'
'I am well,' said the Colonel, 'perfectly well.'
'But you are distressed,' said Edward; 'is there anything can be
'Nothing, Mr. Waverley; I was only thinking of home, and some
unpleasant occurrences there.'
'Good God, my uncle!' exclaimed Waverley.
'No, it is a grief entirely my own. I am ashamed you should have
seen it disarm me so much; but it must have its course at times,
that it may be at others more decently supported. I would have
kept it secret from you; for I think it will grieve you, and yet
you can administer no consolation. But you have surprised me,—I
see you are surprised yourself,—and I hate mystery. Read that
The letter was from Colonel Talbot's sister, and in these
'I received yours, my dearest brother, by Hodges. Sir E. W. and
Mr. R. are still at large, but are not permitted to leave London.
I wish to Heaven I could give you as good an account of matters in
the square. But the news of the unhappy affair at Preston came
upon us, with the dreadful addition that you were among the
fallen. You know Lady Emily's state of health, when your
friendship for Sir E. induced you to leave her. She was much
harassed with the sad accounts from Scotland of the rebellion
having broken out; but kept up her spirits, as, she said, it
became your wife, and for the sake of the future heir, so long
hoped for in vain. Alas, my dear brother, these hopes are now
ended! Notwithstanding all my watchful care, this unhappy rumour
reached her without preparation. She was taken ill immediately;
and the poor infant scarce survived its birth. Would to God this
were all! But although the contradiction of the horrible report by
your own letter has greatly revived her spirits, yet Dr. ——
apprehends, I grieve to say, serious, and even dangerous,
consequences to her health, especially from the uncertainty in
which she must necessarily remain for some time, aggravated by the
ideas she has formed of the ferocity of those with whom you are a
'Do therefore, my dear brother, as soon as this reaches you,
endeavour to gain your release, by parole, by ransom, or any way
that is practicable. I do not exaggerate Lady Emily's state of
health; but I must not—dare not—suppress the truth. Ever, my
dear Philip, your most affectionate sister,
Edward stood motionless when he had perused this letter; for the
conclusion was inevitable, that, by the Colonel's journey in quest
of him, he had incurred this heavy calamity. It was severe enough,
even in its irremediable part; for Colonel Talbot and Lady Emily,
long without a family, had fondly exulted in the hopes which were
now blasted. But this disappointment was nothing to the extent of
the threatened evil; and Edward, with horror, regarded himself as
the original cause of both.
Ere he could collect himself sufficiently to speak, Colonel
had recovered his usual composure of manner, though his troubled
eye denoted his mental agony.
'She is a woman, my young friend, who may justify even a
tears.' He reached him the miniature, exhibiting features which
fully justified the eulogium; 'and yet, God knows, what you see of
her there is the least of the charms she possesses—possessed, I
should perhaps say—but God's will be done.'
' You must fly—you must fly instantly to her relief. It is
not—it shall not be too late.'
'Fly? how is it possible? I am a prisoner, upon parole.'
'I am your keeper; I restore your parole; I am to answer for
'You cannot do so consistently with your duty; nor can I accept a
discharge from you, with due regard to my own honour; you would be
'I will answer it with my head, if necessary,' said Waverley
impetuously. 'I have been the unhappy cause of the loss of your
child, make me not the murderer of your wife.'
'No, my dear Edward,' said Talbot, taking him kindly by the hand,
'you are in no respect to blame; and if I concealed this domestic
distress for two days, it was lest your sensibility should view it
in that light. You could not think of me, hardly knew of my
existence, when I left England in quest of you. It is a
responsibility, Heaven knows, sufficiently heavy for mortality,
that we must answer for the foreseen and direct result of our
actions; for their indirect and consequential operation the great
and good Being, who alone can foresee the dependence of human
events on each other, hath not pronounced his frail creatures
'But that you should have left Lady Emily,' said Waverley, with
much emotion, 'in the situation of all others the most interesting
to a husband, to seek a—'
'I only did my duty,' answered Colonel Talbot, calmly, 'and I do
not, ought not, to regret it. If the path of gratitude and honour
were always smooth and easy, there would be little merit in
following it; but it moves often in contradiction to our interest
and passions, and sometimes to our better affections. These are
the trials of life, and this, though not the least bitter' (the
tears came unbidden to his eyes), 'is not the first which it has
been my fate to encounter. But we will talk of this to-morrow,'
he said, wringing Waverley's hands. 'Good-night; strive to forget
it for a few hours. It will dawn, I think, by six, and it is now
past two. Good-night.'
Edward retired, without trusting his voice with a reply.