THE CONFUSION OF KING AGRAMANT’S CAMP
Itwas 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.