This melancholy interview with his late sergeant forced many unavailing and painful reflections upon Waverley’s mind. It was clear from the confession of the man that Colonel Gardiner’s proceedings had been strictly warranted, and even rendered indispensable, by the steps taken in Edward’s name to induce the soldiers of his troop to mutiny. The circumstance of the seal he now, for the first time, recollected, and that he had lost it in the cavern of the robber, Bean Lean. That the artful villain had secured it, and used it as the means of carrying on an intrigue in the regiment for his own purposes, was sufficiently evident; and Edward had now little doubt that in the packet placed in his portmanteau by his daughter he should find farther light upon his proceedings. In the meanwhile the repeated expostulation of Houghton—’Ah, squire, why did you leave us?’ rung like a knell in his ears.
‘Yes,’ he said, ’I have indeed acted towards you with thoughtless cruelty. I brought you from your paternal fields, and the protection of a generous and kind landlord, and when I had subjected you to all the rigour of military discipline, I shunned to bear my own share of the burden, and wandered from the duties I had undertaken, leaving alike those whom it was my business to protect, and my own reputation, to suffer under the artifices of villainy. O, indolence and indecision of mind, if not in yourselves vices—to how much exquisite misery and mischief do you frequently prepare the way!’
THE EVE OF BATTLE
Although the Highlanders marched on very fast, the sun was declining when they arrived upon the brow of those high grounds which command an open and extensive plain stretching northward to the sea, on which are situated, but at a considerable distance from each other, the small villages of Seaton and Cockenzie, and the larger one of Preston. One of the low coastroads to Edinburgh passed through this plain, issuing upon it from the enclosures of Seaton House, and at the town or village of Preston again entering the denies of an enclosed country. By this way the English general had chosen to approach the metropolis, both as most commodious for his cavalry, and being probably of opinion that by doing so he would meet in front with the Highlanders advancing from Edinburgh in the opposite direction. In this he was mistaken; for the sound judgment of the Chevalier, or of those to whose advice he listened, left the direct passage free, but occupied the strong ground by which it was overlooked and commanded.