- Waverly (Chapter XXIX - The Confusion of King Agramant's Camp) by Sir Walter Scott
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Chapter XXIX - The Confusion of King Agramant's Camp

by Sir Walter Scott

It was Waverley's custom sometimes to ride a little apart from the main body, to look at any object of curiosity which occurred on the march. They were now in Lancashire, when, attracted by a castellated old hall, he left the squadron for half an hour to take a survey and slight sketch of it. As he returned down the avenue he was met by Ensign Maccombich. This man had contracted a sort of regard for Edward since the day of his first seeing him at Tully-Veolan and introducing him to the Highlands. He seemed to loiter, as if on purpose to meet with our hero. Yet, as he passed him, he only approached his stirrup and pronounced the single word 'Beware!' and then walked swiftly on, shunning all further communication.

Edward, somewhat surprised at this hint, followed with his eyes the course of Evan, who speedily disappeared among the trees. His servant, Alick Polwarth, who was in attendance, also looked after the Highlander, and then riding up close to his master, said,—

'The ne'er be in me, sir, if I think you're safe amang thae Highland rinthereouts.'

'What do you mean, Alick?' said Waverley.

'The Mac-Ivors, sir, hae gotten it into their heads that ye hae affronted their young leddy, Miss Flora; and I hae heard mae than ane say, they wadna tak muckle to mak a black-cock o' ye; and ye ken weel eneugh there's mony o' them wadna mind a bawbee the weising a ball through the Prince himsell, an the Chief gae them the wink, or whether he did or no, if they thought it a thing that would please him when it was dune.'

Waverley, though confident that Fergus Mac-Ivor was incapable of such treachery, was by no means equally sure of the forbearance of his followers. He knew that, where the honour of the Chief or his family was supposed to be touched, the happiest man would be he that could first avenge the stigma; and he had often heard them quote a proverb, 'That the best revenge was the most speedy and most safe.' Coupling this with the hint of Evan, he judged it most prudent to set spurs to his horse and ride briskly back to the squadron. Ere he reached the end of the long avenue, however, a ball whistled past him, and the report of a pistol was heard.

'It was that deevil's buckle, Callum Beg,' said Alick; 'I saw him whisk away through amang the reises.'

Edward, justly incensed at this act of treachery, galloped out of the avenue, and observed the battalion of Mac-Ivor at some distance moving along the common in which it terminated. He also saw an individual running very fast to join the party; this he concluded was the intended assassin, who, by leaping an enclosure, might easily make a much shorter path to the main body than he could find on horseback. Unable to contain himself, he commanded Alick to go to the Baron of Bradwardine, who was at the head of his regiment about half a mile in front, and acquaint him with what had happened. He himself immediately rode up to Fergus's regiment. The Chief himself was in the act of joining them. He was on horseback, having returned from waiting on the Prince. On perceiving Edward approaching, he put his horse in motion towards him.

'Colonel Mac-Ivor,' said Waverley, without any farther salutation, 'I have to inform you that one of your people has this instant fired at me from a lurking-place.'

'As that,' answered Mac-Ivor, 'excepting the circumstance of a lurking-place, is a pleasure which I presently propose to myself, I should be glad to know which of my clansmen dared to anticipate me.'

'I shall certainly be at your command whenever you please; the gentleman who took your office upon himself is your page there, Callum Beg.'

'Stand forth from the ranks, Callum! Did you fire at Mr. Waverley?'

'No,' answered the unblushing Callum.

'You did,' said Alick Polwarth, who was already returned, having met a trooper by whom he despatched an account of what was going forward to the Baron of Bradwardine, while he himself returned to his master at full gallop, neither sparing the rowels of his spurs nor the sides of his horse. 'You did; I saw you as plainly as I ever saw the auld kirk at Coudingham.'

'You lie,' replied Callum, with his usual impenetrable obstinacy. The combat between the knights would certainly, as in the days of chivalry, have been preceded by an encounter between the squires (for Alick was a stout-hearted Merseman, and feared the bow of Cupid far more than a Highlander's dirk or claymore), but Fergus, with his usual tone of decision, demanded Callum's pistol. The cock was down, the pan and muzzle were black with the smoke; it had been that instant fired.

'Take that,' said Fergus, striking the boy upon the head with the heavy pistol-butt with his whole force—'take that for acting without orders, and lying to disguise it.' Callum received the blow without appearing to flinch from it, and fell without sign of life. 'Stand still, upon your lives!' said Fergus to the rest of the clan; 'I blow out the brains of the first man who interferes between Mr. Waverley and me.' They stood motionless; Evan Dhu alone showed symptoms of vexation and anxiety. Callum lay on the ground bleeding copiously, but no one ventured to give him any assistance. It seemed as if he had gotten his death-blow.

'And now for you, Mr. Waverley; please to turn your horse twenty yards with me upon the common.' Waverley complied; and Fergus, confronting him when they were a little way from the line of march, said, with great affected coolness, 'I could not but wonder, sir, at the fickleness of taste which you were pleased to express the other day. But it was not an angel, as you justly observed, who had charms for you, unless she brought an empire for her fortune. I have now an excellent commentary upon that obscure text.'

'I am at a loss even to guess at your meaning, Colonel Mac-Ivor, unless it seems plain that you intend to fasten a quarrel upon me.'

'Your affected ignorance shall not serve you, sir. The Prince—the Prince himself has acquainted me with your manoeuvres. I little thought that your engagements with Miss Bradwardine were the reason of your breaking off your intended match with my sister. I suppose the information that the Baron had altered the destination of his estate was quite a sufficient reason for slighting your friend's sister and carrying off your friend's mistress.'

'Did the Prince tell you I was engaged to Miss Bradwardine?' said Waverley. 'Impossible.'

'He did, sir,' answered Mac-Ivor; 'so, either draw and defend yourself or resign your pretensions to the lady.' 'This is absolute madness,' exclaimed Waverley, 'or some strange mistake!'

'O! no evasion! draw your sword!' said the infuriated Chieftain, his own already unsheathed.

'Must I fight in a madman's quarrel?'

'Then give up now, and forever, all pretensions to Miss Bradwardine's hand.'

'What title have you,' cried Waverley, utterly losing command of himself—'what title have you, or any man living, to dictate such terms to me?' And he also drew his sword.

At this moment the Baron of Bradwardine, followed by several of his troop, came up on the spur, some from curiosity, others to take part in the quarrel which they indistinctly understood had broken out between the Mac-Ivors and their corps. The clan, seeing them approach, put themselves in motion to support their Chieftain, and a scene of confusion commenced which seamed likely to terminate in bloodshed. A hundred tongues were in motion at once. The Baron lectured, the Chieftain stormed, the Highlanders screamed in Gaelic, the horsemen cursed and swore in Lowland Scotch. At length matters came to such a pass that the Baron threatened to charge the Mac-Ivors unless they resumed their ranks, and many of them, in return, presented their firearms at him and the other troopers. The confusion was privately fostered by old Ballenkeiroch, who made no doubt that his own day of vengeance was arrived, when, behold! a cry arose of 'Room! make way! place a Monseigneur! place a Monseigneur!' This announced the approach of the Prince, who came up with a party of Fitz-James's foreign dragoons that acted as his body-guard. His arrival produced some degree of order. The Highlanders reassumed their ranks, the cavalry fell in and formed squadron, and the Baron and Chieftain were silent.

The Prince called them and Waverley before him. Having heard the original cause of the quarrel through the villainy of Callum Beg, he ordered him into custody of the provost-marshal for immediate execution, in the event of his surviving the chastisement inflicted by his Chieftain. Fergus, however, in a tone betwixt claiming a right and asking a favour, requested he might be left to his disposal, and promised his punishment should be exemplary. To deny this might have seemed to encroach on the patriarchal authority of the Chieftains, of which they were very jealous, and they were not persons to be disobliged. Callum was therefore left to the justice of his own tribe.

The Prince next demanded to know the new cause of quarrel between Colonel Mac-Ivor and Waverley. There was a pause. Both gentlemen found the presence of the Baron of Bradwardine (for by this time all three had approached the Chevalier by his command) an insurmountable barrier against entering upon a subject where the name of his daughter must unavoidably be mentioned. They turned their eyes on the ground, with looks in which shame and embarrassment were mingled with displeasure. The Prince, who had been educated amongst the discontented and mutinous spirits of the court of St. Germains, where feuds of every kind were the daily subject of solicitude to the dethroned sovereign, had served his apprenticeship, as old Frederick of Prussia would have said, to the trade of royalty. To promote or restore concord among his followers was indispensable. Accordingly he took his measures.

'Monsieur de Beaujeu!'

'Monseigneur!' said a very handsome French cavalry officer who was in attendance.

'Ayez la bonte d'aligner ces montagnards la, ainsi que la cavalerie, s'il vous plait, et de les remettre a la marche. Vous parlez si bien l'Anglois, cela ne vous donneroit pas beaucoup de peine.'

'Ah! pas du tout, Monseigneur,' replied Mons. le Comte de Beaujeu, his head bending down to the neck of his little prancing highly-managed charger. Accordingly he piaffed away, in high spirits and confidence, to the head of Fergus's regiment, although understanding not a word of Gaelic and very little English.

'Messieurs les sauvages Ecossois—dat is, gentilmans savages, have the goodness d'arranger vous.'

The clan, comprehending the order more from the gesture than the words, and seeing the Prince himself present, hastened to dress their ranks.

'Ah! ver well! dat is fort bien!' said the Count de Beaujeu. 'Gentilmans sauvages! mais, tres bien. Eh bien! Qu'est ce que vous appelez visage, Monsieur?' (to a lounging trooper who stood by him). 'Ah, oui! face. Je vous remercie, Monsieur. Gentilshommes, have de goodness to make de face to de right par file, dat is, by files. Marsh! Mais, tres bien; encore, Messieurs; il faut vous mettre a la marche. ... Marchez done, au nom de Dieu, parceque j'ai oublie le mot Anglois; mais vous etes des braves gens, et me comprenez tres bien.'

The Count next hastened to put the cavalry in motion. 'Gentilmans cavalry, you must fall in. Ah! par ma foi, I did not say fall off! I am a fear de little gross fat gentilman is moche hurt. Ah, mon Dieu! c'est le Commissaire qui nous a apporte les premieres nouvelles de ce maudit fracas. Je suis trop fache, Monsieur!'

But poor Macwheeble, who, with a sword stuck across him, and a white cockade as large as a pancake, now figured in the character of a commissary, being overturned in the bustle occasioned by the troopers hastening to get themselves in order in the Prince's presence, before he could rally his galloway, slunk to the rear amid the unrestrained laughter of the spectators.

'Eh bien, Messieurs, wheel to de right. Ah! dat is it! Eh, Monsieur de Bradwardine, ayez la bonte de vous mettre a la tete de votre regiment, car, par Dieu, je n'en puis plus!'

The Baron of Bradwardine was obliged to go to the assistance of Monsieur de Beaujeu, after he had fairly expended his few English military phrases. One purpose of the Chevalier was thus answered. The other he proposed was, that in the eagerness to hear and comprehend commands issued through such an indistinct medium in his own presence, the thoughts of the soldiers in both corps might get a current different from the angry channel in which they were flowing at the time.

Charles Edward was no sooner left with the Chieftain and Waverley, the rest of his attendants being at some distance, than he said, 'If I owed less to your disinterested friendship, I could be most seriously angry with both of you for this very extraordinary and causeless broil, at a moment when my father's service so decidedly demands the most perfect unanimity. But the worst of my situation is, that my very best friends hold they have liberty to ruin themselves, as well as the cause they are engaged in, upon the slightest caprice.'

Both the young men protested their resolution to submit every difference to his arbitration. 'Indeed,' said Edward, 'I hardly know of what I am accused. I sought Colonel Mac-Ivor merely to mention to him that I had narrowly escaped assassination at the hand of his immediate dependent, a dastardly revenge which I knew him to be incapable of authorising. As to the cause for which he is disposed to fasten a quarrel upon me, I am ignorant of it, unless it be that he accuses me, most unjustly, of having engaged the affections of a young lady in prejudice of his pretensions.'

'If there is an error,' said the Chieftain, 'it arises from a conversation which I held this morning with his Royal Highness himself.'

'With me?' said the Chevalier; 'how can Colonel Mac-Ivor have so far misunderstood me?'

He then led Fergus aside, and, after five minutes' earnest conversation, spurred his horse towards Edward. 'Is it possible—nay, ride up, Colonel, for I desire no secrets—is it possible, Mr. Waverley, that I am mistaken in supposing that you are an accepted lover of Miss Bradwardine? a fact of which I was by circumstances, though not by communication from you, so absolutely convinced that I alleged it to Vich Ian Vohr this morning as a reason why, without offence to him, you might not continue to be ambitious of an alliance which, to an unengaged person, even though once repulsed, holds out too many charms to be lightly laid aside.'

'Your Royal Highness,' said Waverley,'must have founded on circumstances altogether unknown to me, when you did me the distinguished honour of supposing me an accepted lover of Miss Bradwardine. I feel the distinction implied in the supposition, but I have no title to it. For the rest, my confidence in my own merit is too justly slight to admit of my hoping for success in any quarter after positive rejection.'

The Chevalier was silent for a moment, looking steadily at them both, and then said, 'Upon my word, Mr. Waverley, you are a less happy man than I conceived I had very good reason to believe you. But now, gentlemen, allow me to be umpire in this matter, not as Prince Regent but as Charles Stuart, a brother adventurer with you in the same gallant cause. Lay my pretensions to be obeyed by you entirely out of view, and consider your own honour, and how far it is well or becoming to give our enemies the advantage and our friends the scandal of showing that, few as we are, we are not united. And forgive me if I add, that the names of the ladies who have been mentioned crave more respect from us all than to be made themes of discord.'

He took Fergus a little apart and spoke to him very earnestly for two or three minutes, and then returning to Waverley, said, 'I believe I have satisfied Colonel Mac-Ivor that his resentment was founded upon a misconception, to which, indeed, I myself gave rise; and I trust Mr. Waverley is too generous to harbour any recollection of what is past when I assure him that such is the case. You must state this matter properly to your clan, Vich Ian Vohr, to prevent a recurrence of their precipitate violence.' Fergus bowed. 'And now, gentlemen, let me have the pleasure to see you shake hands.'

They advanced coldly, and with measured steps, each apparently reluctant to appear most forward in concession. They did, however, shake hands, and parted, taking a respectful leave of the Chevalier.

Charles Edward [Footnote: See Note 12.] then rode to the head of the Mac-Ivors, threw himself from his horse, begged a drink out of old Ballenkeiroch's cantine, and marched about half a mile along with them, inquiring into the history and connexions of Sliochd nan Ivor, adroitly using the few words of Gaelic he possessed, and affecting a great desire to learn it more thoroughly. He then mounted his horse once more, and galloped to the Baron's cavalry, which was in front, halted them, and examined their accoutrements and state of discipline; took notice of the principal gentlemen, and even of the cadets; inquired after their ladies, and commended their horses; rode about an hour with the Baron of Bradwardine, and endured three long stories about Field-Marshal the Duke of Berwick.

'Ah, Beaujeu, mon cher ami,' said he, as he returned to his usual place in the line of march, 'que mon metier de prince errant est ennuyant, par fois. Mais, courage! c'est le grand jeu, apres tout.'

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