This was what lawyers call a fishing question, calculated to ascertain how far Waverley was disposed to submit to petty imposition. ‘My part to replace your horse’s shoe, you rascal!’ said Waverley, mistaking the purport of the intimation.
‘Indubitably,’ answered Mr. Cruickshanks; ‘though there was no preceese clause to that effect, it canna be expected that I am to pay for the casualties whilk may befall the puir naig while in your honour’s service. Nathless, if your honour—’
‘O, you mean I am to pay the farrier; but where shall we find one?’
Rejoiced at discerning there would be no objection made on the part of his temporary master, Mr. Cruickshanks assured him that Cairnvreckan, a village which they were about to enter, was happy in an excellent blacksmith; ‘but as he was a professor, he would drive a nail for no man on the Sabbath or kirk-fast, unless it were in a case of absolute necessity, for which he always charged sixpence each shoe.’ The most important part of this communication, in the opinion of the speaker, made a very slight impression on the hearer, who only internally wondered what college this veterinary professor belonged to, not aware that the word was used to denote any person who pretended to uncommon sanctity of faith and manner.
As they entered the village of Cairnvreckan, they speedily distinguished the smith’s house. Being also a public, it was two stories high, and proudly reared its crest, covered with grey slate, above the thatched hovels by which it was surrounded. The adjoining smithy betokened none of the Sabbatical silence and repose which Ebenezer had augured from the sanctity of his friend. On the contrary, hammer clashed and anvil rang, the bellows groaned, and the whole apparatus of Vulcan appeared to be in full activity. Nor was the labour of a rural and pacific nature. The master smith, benempt, as his sign intimated, John Mucklewrath, with two assistants, toiled busily in arranging, repairing, and furbishing old muskets, pistols, and swords, which lay scattered around his workshop in military confusion. The open shed, containing the forge, was crowded with persons who came and went as if receiving and communicating important news, and a single glance at the aspect of the people who traversed the street in haste, or stood assembled in groups, with eyes elevated and hands uplifted, announced that some extraordinary intelligence was agitating the public mind of the municipality of Cairnvreckan. ‘There is some news,’ said mine host of the Candlestick, pushing his lantern-jawed visage and bare-boned nag rudely forward into the crowd—‘there is some news; and, if it please my Creator, I will forthwith obtain speirings thereof.’
Waverley, with better regulated curiosity than his attendant’s, dismounted and gave his horse to a boy who stood idling near. It arose, perhaps, from the shyness of his character in early youth, that he felt dislike at applying to a stranger even for casual information, without previously glancing at his physiognomy and appearance. While he looked about in order to select the person with whom he would most willingly hold communication, the buzz around saved him in some degree the trouble of interrogatories. The names of Lochiel, Clanronald, Glengarry, and other distinguished Highland Chiefs, among whom Vich Ian Vohr was repeatedly mentioned, were as familiar in men’s mouths as household words; and from the alarm generally expressed, he easily conceived that their descent into the Lowlands, at the head of their armed tribes, had either already taken place or was instantly apprehended.
Ere Waverley could ask particulars, a strong, large-boned, hard-featured woman, about forty, dressed as if her clothes had been flung on with a pitchfork, her cheeks flushed with a scarlet red where they were not smutted with soot and lamp-black, jostled through the crowd, and, brandishing high a child of two years old, which she danced in her arms without regard to its screams of terror, sang forth with all her might,—
Charlie is my darling, my darling, my darling,
Charlie is my darling,
The young Chevalier!
‘D’ ye hear what’s come ower ye now,’ continued the virago, ‘ye whingeing Whig carles? D’ye hear wha’s coming to cow yer cracks?
Little wot ye wha’s coming,
Little wot ye wha’s coming,
A’ the wild Macraws are coming.’
The Vulcan of Cairnvreckan, who acknowledged his Venus in this exulting Bacchante, regarded her with a grim and ire-foreboding countenance, while some of the senators of the village hastened to interpose. ‘Whisht, gudewife; is this a time or is this a day to be singing your ranting fule sangs in?—a time when the wine of wrath is poured out without mixture in the cup of indignation, and a day when the land should give testimony against popery, and prelacy, and quakerism, and independency, and supremacy, and erastianism, and antinomianism, and a’ the errors of the church?’
‘And that’s a’ your Whiggery,’ reechoed the Jacobite heroine; ‘that’s a’ your Whiggery, and your presbytery, ye cut-lugged, graning carles! What! d’ ye think the lads wi’ the kilts will care for yer synods and yer presbyteries, and yer buttock-mail, and yer stool o’ repentance? Vengeance on the black face o’t! mony an honester woman’s been set upon it than streeks doon beside ony Whig in the country. I mysell——’
Here John Mucklewrath, who dreaded her entering upon a detail of personal experience, interposed his matrimonial authority. ‘Gae hame, and be d——, (that I should say sae), and put on the sowens for supper.’
‘And you, ye doil’d dotard,’ replied his gentle helpmate, her wrath, which had hitherto wandered abroad over the whole assembly, being at once and violently impelled into its natural channel, ‘Ye stand there hammering dog-heads for fules that will never snap them at a Highlandman, instead of earning bread for your family and shoeing this winsome young gentleman’s horse that’s just come frae the north! I’se warrant him nane of your whingeing King George folk, but a gallant Gordon, at the least o’ him.’
The eyes of the assembly were now turned upon Waverley, who took the opportunity to beg the smith to shoe his guide’s horse with all speed, as he wished to proceed on his journey; for he had heard enough to make him sensible that there would be danger in delaying long in this place. The smith’s eyes rested on him with a look of displeasure and suspicion, not lessened by the eagerness with which his wife enforced Waverley’s mandate. ‘D’ye hear what the weel-favoured young gentleman says, ye drunken ne’er-do-good?’
‘And what may your name be, sir?’ quoth Mucklewrath.
‘It is of no consequence to you, my friend, provided I pay your labour.’
‘But it may be of consequence to the state, sir,’ replied an old farmer, smelling strongly of whisky and peat-smoke; ‘and I doubt we maun delay your journey till you have seen the Laird.’
‘You certainly,’ said Waverley, haughtily, ‘will find it both difficult and dangerous to detain me, unless you can produce some proper authority.’
There was a pause and a whisper among the crowd—‘Secretary Murray’—‘Lord Lewis Gordon’—‘Maybe the Chevalier himsell!’ Such were the surmises that passed hurriedly among them, and there was obviously an increased disposition to resist Waverley’s departure. He attempted to argue mildly with them, but his voluntary ally, Mrs. Mucklewrath, broke in upon and drowned his expostulations, taking his part with an abusive violence which was all set down to Edward’s account by those on whom it was bestowed. ‘Ye’ll stop ony gentleman that’s the Prince’s freend?’ for she too, though with other feelings, had adopted the general opinion respecting Waverley. ‘I daur ye to touch him,’ spreading abroad her long and muscular fingers, garnished with claws which a vulture might have envied. ‘I’ll set my ten commandments in the face o’ the first loon that lays a finger on him.’
‘Gae hame, gudewife,’ quoth the farmer aforesaid; ‘it wad better set you to be nursing the gudeman’s bairns than to be deaving us here.’
‘His bairns?’ retorted the Amazon, regarding her husband with a grin of ineffable contempt—‘His bairns!
O gin ye were dead, gudeman,
And a green turf on your head, gudeman!
Then I wad ware my widowhood
Upon a ranting Highlandman’
This canticle, which excited a suppressed titter among the younger part of the audience, totally overcame the patience of the taunted man of the anvil. ‘Deil be in me but I’ll put this het gad down her throat!’ cried he in an ecstasy of wrath, snatching a bar from the forge; and he might have executed his threat, had he not been withheld by a part of the mob, while the rest endeavoured to force the termagant out of his presence.
Waverley meditated a retreat in the confusion, but his horse was nowhere to be seen. At length he observed at some distance his faithful attendant, Ebenezer, who, as soon as he had perceived the turn matters were likely to take, had withdrawn both horses from the press, and, mounted on the one and holding the other, answered the loud and repeated calls of Waverley for his horse. ‘Na, na! if ye are nae friend to kirk and the king, and are detained as siccan a person, ye maun answer to honest men of the country for breach of contract; and I maun keep the naig and the walise for damage and expense, in respect my horse and mysell will lose to-morrow’s day’s wark, besides the afternoon preaching.’
Edward, out of patience, hemmed in and hustled by the rabble on every side, and every moment expecting personal violence, resolved to try measures of intimidation, and at length drew a pocket-pistol, threatening, on the one hand, to shoot whomsoever dared to stop him, and, on the other, menacing Ebenezer with a similar doom if he stirred a foot with the horses. The sapient Partridge says that one man with a pistol is equal to a hundred unarmed, because, though he can shoot but one of the multitude, yet no one knows but that he himself may be that luckless individual. The levy en masse of Cairnvreckan would therefore probably have given way, nor would Ebenezer, whose natural paleness had waxed three shades more cadaverous, have ventured to dispute a mandate so enforced, had not the Vulcan of the village, eager to discharge upon some more worthy object the fury which his helpmate had provoked, and not ill satisfied to find such an object in Waverley, rushed at him with the red-hot bar of iron with such determination as made the discharge of his pistol an act of self-defence. The unfortunate man fell; and while Edward, thrilled with a natural horror at the incident, neither had presence of mind to unsheathe his sword nor to draw his remaining pistol, the populace threw themselves upon him, disarmed him, and were about to use him with great violence, when the appearance of a venerable clergyman, the pastor of the parish, put a curb on their fury.
This worthy man (none of the Goukthrapples or Rentowels) maintained his character with the common people, although he preached the practical fruits of Christian faith as well as its abstract tenets, and was respected by the higher orders, notwithstanding he declined soothing their speculative errors by converting the pulpit of the gospel into a school of heathen morality. Perhaps it is owing to this mixture of faith and practice in his doctrine that, although his memory has formed a sort of era in the annals of Cairnvreckan, so that the parishioners, to denote what befell Sixty Years Since, still say it happened ‘in good Mr. Morton’s time,’ I have never been able to discover which he belonged to, the evangelical or the moderate party in the kirk. Nor do I hold the circumstance of much moment, since, in my own remembrance, the one was headed by an Erskine, the other by a Robertson.1
Mr. Morton had been alarmed by the discharge of the pistol and the increasing hubbub around the smithy. His first attention, after he had directed the bystanders to detain Waverley, but to abstain from injuring him, was turned to the body of Mucklewrath, over which his wife, in a revulsion of feeling, was weeping, howling, and tearing her elf-locks in a state little short of distraction. On raising up the smith, the first discovery was that he was alive; and the next that he was likely to live as long as if he had never heard the report of a pistol in his life. He had made a narrow escape, however; the bullet had grazed his head and stunned him for a moment or two, which trance terror and confusion of spirit had prolonged somewhat longer. He now arose to demand vengeance on the person of Waverley, and with difficulty acquiesced in the proposal of Mr. Morton that he should be carried before the Laird, as a justice of peace, and placed at his disposal. The rest of the assistants unanimously agreed to the measure recommended; even Mrs. Mucklewrath, who had begun to recover from her hysterics, whimpered forth, ‘She wadna say naething against what the minister proposed; he was e’en ower gude for his trade, and she hoped to see him wi’ a dainty decent bishop’s gown on his back; a comelier sight than your Geneva cloaks and bands, I wis.’
All controversy being thus laid aside, Waverley, escorted by the whole inhabitants of the village who were not bed-ridden, was conducted to the house of Cairnvreckan, which was about half a mile distant.
1. The Reverend John Erskine, D. D, an eminent Scottish divine and a most excellent man, headed the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland at the time when the celebrated Doctor Robertson, the historian, was the leader of the Moderate party. These two distinguished persons were colleagues in the Old Grey Friars’ Church, Edinburgh; and, however much they differed in church politics, preserved the most perfect harmony as private friends and as clergymen serving the same cure. [back]