It was just when this important question was decided that the Baron of Bradwardine, with a careful and yet important expression of countenance, joined the two young men. He descended from his reeking charger, the care of which he recommended to one of his grooms. ‘I seldom ban, sir,’ said he to the man; ‘but if you play any of your hound’s-foot tricks, and leave puir Berwick before he’s sorted, to rin after spuilzie, deil be wi’ me if I do not give your craig a thraw.’ He then stroked with great complacency the animal which had borne him through the fatigues of the day, and having taken a tender leave of him—‘Weel, my good young friends, a glorious and decisive victory,’ said he; ‘but these loons of troopers fled ower soon. I should have liked to have shown you the true points of the pralium equestre, or equestrian combat, whilk their cowardice has postponed, and which I hold to be the pride and terror of warfare. Weel—I have fought once more in this old quarrel, though I admit I could not be so far ben as you lads, being that it was my point of duty to keep together our handful of horse. And no cavalier ought in any wise to begrudge honour that befalls his companions, even though they are ordered upon thrice his danger, whilk, another time, by the blessing of God, may be his own case. But, Glennaquoich, and you, Mr. Waverley, I pray ye to give me your best advice on a matter of mickle weight, and which deeply affects the honour of the house of Bradwardine. I crave your pardon, Ensign Maccombich, and yours, Inveraughlin, and yours, Edderalshendrach, and yours, sir.’
The last person he addressed was Ballenkeiroch, who, remembering the death of his son, loured on him with a look of savage defiance. The Baron, quick as lightning at taking umbrage, had already bent his brow when Glennaquoich dragged his major from the spot, and remonstrated with him, in the authoritative tone of a chieftain, on the madness of reviving a quarrel in such a moment.
‘The ground is cumbered with carcasses,’ said the old mountaineer, turning sullenly away; ‘one more would hardly have been kenn’dupon it; and if it wasna for yoursell, Vich Ian Vohr, that one should be Bradwardine’s or mine.’
The Chief soothed while he hurried him away; and then returned to the Baron. ‘It is Ballenkeiroch,’ he said, in an under and confidential voice, ‘father of the young man who fell eight years since in the unlucky affair at the mains.’
‘Ah!’ said the Baron, instantly relaxing the doubtful sternness of his features, ‘I can take naickle frae a man to whom I have unhappily rendered sic a displeasure as that. Ye were right to apprise me, Glennaquoich; he may look as black as midnight at Martinmas ere Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine shall say he does him wrang. Ah! I have nae male lineage, and I should bear with one I have made childless, though you are aware the blood-wit was made up to your ain satisfaction by assythment, and that I have since expedited letters of slains.—Weel, as I have said, I have no male issue, and yet it is needful that I maintain the honour of my house; and it is on that score I prayed ye for your peculiar and private attention.’
The two young men awaited to hear him, in anxious curiosity.
‘I doubt na, lads,’ he proceeded, ‘but your education has been sae seen to that ye understand the true nature of the feudal tenures?’
Fergus, afraid of an endless dissertation, answered, ‘Intimately, Baron,’ and touched Waverley as a signal to express no ignorance.
‘And ye are aware, I doubt not, that the holding of the barony of Bradwardine is of a nature alike honourable and peculiar, being blanch (which Craig opines ought to be Latinated blancum, or rather francum, a free holding) pro sermtio detrahendi, seu exuendi, caligas regis post battalliam.’ Here Fergus turned his falcon eye upon Edward, with an almost imperceptible rise of his eyebrow, to which his shoulders corresponded in the same degree of elevation. ‘Now, twa points of dubitation occur to me upon this topic. First, whether this service, or feudal homage, be at any event due to the person of the Prince, the words being, per expressum, caligas REGIS, the boots of the king himself; and I pray your opinion anent that particular before we proceed farther.’
‘Why, he is Prince Regent,’ answered Mac-Ivor, with laudable composure of countenance; ‘and in the court of France all the honours are rendered to the person of the Regent which are due to that of the King. Besides, were I to pull off either of their boots, I would render that service to the young Chevalier ten times more willingly than to his father.’
‘Ay, but I talk not of personal predilections. However, your authority is of great weight as to the usages of the court of France; and doubtless the Prince, as alter ego, may have a right to claim the homagium of the great tenants of the crown, since all faithful subjects are commanded, in the commission of regency, to respect him as the King’s own person. Far, therefore, be it from me to diminish the lustre of his authority by withholding this act of homage, so peculiarly calculated to give it splendour; for I question if the Emperor of Germany hath his boots taken off by a free baron of the empire. But here lieth the second difficulty—the Prince wears no boots, but simply brogues and trews.’
This last dilemma had almost disturbed Fergus’s gravity.
‘Why,’ said he, ‘you know, Baron, the proverb tells us, “It’s ill taking the breeks off a Highlandman,” and the boots are here in the same predicament.’
‘The word caligæ, however,’ continued the Baron, ‘though I admit that, by family tradition, and even in our ancient evidents, it is explained “lie-boots,” means, in its primitive sense, rather sandals; and Caius Cæsar, the nephew and successor of Caius Tiberius, received the agnomen of Caligula, a caligulis sine caligis levioribus, quibus adolescentior usus fuerat in exercitu Germanici patris sui. And the caligæ were also proper to the monastic bodies; for we read in an ancient glossarium upon the rule of Saint Benedict, in the Abbéy of Saint Amand, that caligæ were tied with latchets.’
‘That will apply to the brogues,’ said Fergus.
‘It will so, my dear Glennaquoich, and the words are express: caligæ, dicta sunt quia ligantur; nam socci non ligantur, sed tantum intromittuntur; that is, caligæ are denominated from the ligatures wherewith they are bound; whereas socci, which may be analogous to our mules, whilk the English denominate slippers, are only slipped upon the feet. The words of the charter are also alternative, exuere seu detrahere; that is, to undo, as in the case of sandals or brogues, and to pull of, as we say vernacularly concerning boots. Yet I would we had more light; but I fear there is little chance of finding hereabout any erudite author de re vestiaria.’
‘I should doubt it very much,’ said the Chieftain, looking around on the straggling Highlanders, who were returning loaded with spoils of the slain, ‘though the res vestiaria itself seems to be in some request at present.’
This remark coming within the Baron’s idea of jocularity, he honoured it with a smile, but immediately resumed what to him appeared very serious business.
‘Bailie Macwheeble indeed holds an opinion that this honorary service is due, from its very nature, si petatur tantum; only if his Royal Highness shall require of the great tenant of the crown to perform that personal duty; and indeed he pointed out the case in Dirleton’s Doubts and Queries, Grippit versus Spicer, anent the eviction of an estate ob non solutum canonem; that is, for non-payment of a feu-duty of three pepper-corns a year, whilk were taxt to be worth seven-eighths of a penny Scots, in whilk the defender was assoilzied. But I deem it safest, wi’ your good favour, to place myself in the way of rendering the Prince this service, and to proffer performance thereof; and I shall cause the Bailie to attend with a schedule of a protest, whilk he has here prepared (taking out a paper), intimating, that if it shall be his Royal Highness’s pleasure to accept of other assistance at pulling off his caligæ (whether the same shall be rendered boots or brogues) save that of the said Baron of Bradwardine, who is in presence ready and willing to perform the same, it shall in no wise impinge upon or prejudice the right of the said Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine to perform the said service in future; nor shall it give any esquire, valet of the chamber, squire, or page, whose assistance it may please his Royal Highness to employ, any right, title, or ground for evicting from the said Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine the estate and barony of Bradwardine, and others held as aforesaid, by the due and faithful performance thereof.’
Fergus highly applauded this arrangement; and the Baron took a friendly leave of them, with a smile of contented importance upon his visage.
‘Long live our dear friend the Baron,’ exclaimed the Chief, as soon as he was out of hearing, ‘for the most absurd original that exists north of the Tweed! I wish to heaven I had recommended him to attend the circle this evening with a boot-ketch under his arm. I think he might have adopted the suggestion if it had been made with suitable gravity.’
‘And how can you take pleasure in making a man of his worth so ridiculous?’
‘Begging pardon, my dear Waverley, you are as ridiculous as he. Why, do you not see that the man’s whole mind is wrapped up in this ceremony? He has heard and thought of it since infancy as the most august privilege and ceremony in the world; and I doubt not but the expected pleasure of performing it was a principal motive with him for taking up arms. Depend upon it, had I endeavoured to divert him from exposing himself he would have treated me as an ignorant, conceited coxcomb, or perhaps might have taken a fancy to cut my throat; a pleasure which he once proposed to himself upon some point of etiquette not half so important, in his eyes, as this matter of boots or brogues, or whatever the caligæ shall finally be pronounced by the learned. But I must go to headquarters, to prepare the Prince for this extraordinary scene. My information will be well taken, for it will give him a hearty laugh at present, and put him on his guard against laughing when it might be very mal-a-propos. So, au revoir, my dear Waverley.’