Evan’s illustration set the company a-laughing, and the discourse took a different turn. Shortly afterwards the party broke up, and Edward returned home, musing on what Flora had said. ’I will love my Rosalind no more,’ said he; ’she has given me a broad enough hint for that; and I will speak to her brother and resign my suit. But for a Juliet—would it be handsome to interfere with Fergus’s pretensions? though it is impossible they can ever succeed; and should they miscarry, what then? why then alors comme alors.’ And with this resolution of being guided by circumstances did our hero commit himself to repose.
A BRAVE MAN IN SORROW
Ifmy 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.