Part 5 out of 6
gathered round his banner, and his fortunes henceforth began steadily
Lord Clifford had rebuilt Douglas Castle, making it larger and
much stronger than before, and had committed it to the charge of
Captain Thirlwall, with a strong garrison. Douglas took a number
of his retainers, who had now joined him in the field, and some
of these, dressing themselves as drovers and concealing their
arms, drove a herd of cattle within sight of the castle toward an
ambuscade in which Douglas and the others were laying in ambush.
The garrison, seeing what they believed a valuable prize within
their grasp, sallied out to seize the cattle. When they reached the
ambuscade the Scots sprang out upon them, and Thirlwall and the
greater portion of his men were slain. Douglas then took and destroyed
the castle and marched away. Clifford again rebuilt it more strongly
than before, and placed it in charge of Sir John Walton. It might
have been thought that after the disasters which had befallen
the garrison they would not have suffered themselves to be again
entrapped. Douglas, however, ordered a number of his men to ride
past within sight of the castle with sacks upon their horses,
apparently filled with grain, but in reality with grass, as if
they were countrymen on their way to the neighbouring market town,
while once more he and his followers placed themselves in ambush.
Headed by their captain, the garrison poured out from the castle,
and followed the apparent countrymen until they had passed the
ambush where Douglas was lying. Then the drovers threw off their
disguises and attacked them, while Douglas fell upon their rear,
and Walton and his companions were all slain. The castle was then
attacked, and the remainder of the garrison being cowed by the
fate which had befallen their leader and comrades, made but a poor
defence. The castle was taken, and was again destroyed by its
lord, the walls being, as far as possible, overthrown.
Shortly after the daring adventures of Bruce had begun to rouse
the spirit of the country Archie Forbes found himself at the head
of a larger following than before. Foreseeing that the war must be
a long one he had called upon his tenants and retainers to furnish
him only with a force one third of that of their total strength.
Thus he was able to maintain sixty men always in the field -- all
the older men on the estate being exempted from service unless
summoned to defend the castle.
One day when he was in the forest of Selkirk with the king a body
of fifty men were seen approaching. Their leader inquired for Sir
Archibald Forbes, and presently approached him as he was talking
to the king.
"Sir Archibald Forbes," he said, "I am bidden by my mistress, the
lady Mary Kerr, to bring these, a portion of the retainers of her
estates in Ayrshire, and to place them in your hands to lead and
"In my hands!" Archie exclaimed in astonishment. "The Kerrs are all
on the English side, and I am their greatest enemy. It were strange,
indeed, were one of them to choose me to lead their retainers in
the cause of Scotland."
"Our young lord Sir Allan was slain at Methven," the man said, "and
the lady Mary is now our lady and mistress. She sent to us months
ago to say that she willed not that any of her retainers should any
longer take part in the struggle, and all who were in the field
were summoned home. Then we heard that no hindrance would be offered
by her should any wish to join the Bruce; and now she has sent by
a messenger a letter under her hand ordering that a troop of fifty
men shall be raised to join the king, and that it shall fight under
the leading and order of Sir Archibald Forbes."
"I had not heard that Sir Allan had fallen," Archie said to the
king as they walked apart from the place where the man was standing;
"and in truth I had forgotten that he even had a sister. She must
have been a child when I was a boy at Glen Cairn, and could have
been but seldom at the castle -- which, indeed, was no fit abode
for so young a girl, seeing that Sir John's wife had died some
years before I left Glen Cairn. Perhaps she was with her mother's
relations. I have heard that Sir John Kerr married a relation of
the Comyns of Badenoch. `Tis strange if, being of such bad blood
on both sides, she should have grown up a true Scotchwoman -- still
more strange she should send her vassals to fight under the banner
of one whom she must regard as the unlawful holder of her father's
lands of Aberfilly."
"Think you, Sir Archie," the king said, "that this is a stratagem,
and that these men have really come with a design to seize upon
you and slay you, or to turn traitors in the first battle?"
Archie was silent. "Treachery has been so much at work," he said
after a pause, "that it were rash to say that this may not be a
traitorous device; but it were hard to think that a girl -- even
a Kerr -- would lend herself to it."
"There are bad women as well as bad men," the king said: "and if
a woman thinks she has grievances she will often stick at nothing
to obtain revenge."
"It is a well appointed troop," Archie said looking at the men,
who were drawn up in order, "and not to be despised. Their leader
looks an honest fellow; and if the lady means honestly it were
churlish indeed, to refuse her aid when she ventures to break with
her family and to declare for Scotland. No; methinks that, with
your permission, I will run the risk, such as it may be, and will
join this band with my own. I will keep a sharp watch over them at
the first fight, and will see that they are so placed that, should
they mean treachery, they shall have but small opportunity of doing
Chapter XIX The Convent of St. Kenneth
Bruce, as the result of his successes, was now able to leave
his fastnesses and establish himself in the districts of Carrick,
Kyle, and Cunningham. Pembroke had established himself at Bothwell
Castle, and sent a challenge to Bruce to meet him with his force at
Loudon Hill. Although his previous experience of such challenges
was unfortunate, Bruce accepted the offer. He had learned much
since the battle of Methven, and was not likely again to be caught
asleep; on the 9th of May he assembled his forces at Loudon Hill.
It was but a small following. Douglas had brought 100 men
from Douglasdale, and Archie Forbes had as many under his banner.
Bruce's own vassals had gathered 200 strong, and as many more of
the country people had joined; but in all, the Scotch force did
not exceed 600 men, almost entirely on foot and armed with spears.
Bruce at once reconnoitred the ground to discover a spot where his
little force might best withstand the shock of Pembroke's chivalry.
He found that at one place near the hill the road crossed a level
meadow with deep morasses on either side. He strengthened the position
with trenches, and calmly awaited the approach of his enemy. Upon
the following day Pembroke's army was seen approaching, numbering
3000 knights and mounted men-at-arms, all in complete armour. They
were formed in two divisions. The battle was almost a repetition
of that which had been fought by Wallace near the same spot. The
English chivalry levelled their spears and charged with proud
confidence of their ability to sweep away the rabble of spearmen
in front of them. Their flanks became entangled in the morasses;
their centre tried in vain to break through the hedge of Scottish
spears, and when they were in confusion, the king, his brother
Edward, Douglas, Archie Forbes, and some twenty other mounted men
dashed through a gap in the spearmen and fell upon them. The second
division, seeing the first broken and in confusion, turned and took
to flight at once, and Pembroke and his attendants rode, without
drawing rein, to Bothwell Castle.
A few days later Bruce encountered and defeated Ralph de Monthermer,
Earl of Gloucester, and compelled him to shut himself up in the
Castle of Ayr.
Archie Forbes was not present at the second battle, for upon the
morning after the fight at Loudon Hill he was aroused by his servant
entering his tent.
"A messenger has just brought this," he said, handing him a small
packet. "He bids me tell you that the sender is a prisoner in the
convent of St. Kenneth, on Loch Leven, and prays your aid."
Archie opened the packet and found within it the ring he had given
to Marjory at Dunstaffnage. Without a moment's delay he hurried
to the king and begged permission to leave him for a short time on
urgent business, taking with him twenty of his retainers.
"What is your urgent business, Sir Archie?" the king asked. "A lady
is in the case, I warrant me. Whenever a young knight has urgent
business, be sure that a lady is in question. Now mind, Sir Archie,
I have, as I have told you, set my heart upon marrying you to
Mistress Mary Kerr, and so at once putting an end to a long feud
and doubling your possessions. Her retainers fought well yesterday,
and the least I can do to reward so splendid a damsel is to bestow
upon her the hand of my bravest knight."
"I fear, sire," Archie said laughing, "that she must be content
with another. There are plenty who will deem themselves well paid
for their services in your cause by the gift of the hand of so rich
an heiress. But I must fain be excused; for as I told you, sire,
when we were together in Rathlin Island, my heart was otherwise
"What! to the niece of that malignant enemy of mine, Alexander of
Lorne?" the king said laughing. "Her friends would rather see you
on the gibbet than at the altar."
"I care nought for her friends," Archie said, "if I can get herself.
My own lands are wide enough, and I need no dowry with my wife."
"I see you are hopeless," the king replied. "Well, go, Archie; but
whatever be your errand, beware of the Lornes. Remember I have
scarce begun to win Scotland yet, and cannot spare you."
"A quarter of an hour later Archie, with twenty picked men, took
his way northward. Avoiding all towns and frequented roads, Archie
marched rapidly north to the point of Renfrew and crossed the Firth
of Clyde by boat; then he kept north round the head of Loch Fyne,
and avoiding Dalmally skirted the head of Loch Etive and the slopes
of Ben Nevis, and so came down on Loch Leven.
The convent stood at the extremity of a promontory jutting into the
lake. The neck was very narrow, and across it were strong walls,
with a gate and flanking towers. Between this wall and the convent
was the garden where the inmates walked and enjoyed the air free
from the sight of men, save, indeed, of fishers who might be passing
in their boats.
Outside the wall, on the shore of the lake, stood a large village;
and here a strong body of the retainers of the convent were always
on guard, for at St. Kenneth were many of the daughters of Scotch
nobles, sent there either to be out of the way during the troubles
or to be educated by the nuns. Although the terrors of sacrilege
and the ban of the church might well deter any from laying hands
upon the convent, yet even in those days of superstition some were
found so fierce and irreverent as to dare even the anger of the
church to carry out their wishes; and the possession of some of these
heiresses might well enable them to make good terms for themselves
both with the church and the relations of their captives. Therefore a
number of the retainers were always under arms, a guard was placed
on the gate, and lookouts on the flanking towers -- their duty
being not only to watch the land side, but to shout orders to keep
at a distance to any fisherman who might approach too closely to
Archie left his party in the forest under the command of William
Orr. He dressed himself as a mountaineer, and, accompanied by Cluny
Campbell, and carrying a buck which they had shot in the forest,
went boldly down into the village. He soon got into conversation
with an old fisherman, and offered to exchange the deer for dried
fish. The bargain was quickly struck, and then Archie said:
"I have never been out on the lake, and would fain have a view of
the convent from the water. Will you take me and my brother out
for a row?"
The fisherman, who had made a good bargain, at once assented, and
rowed Archie and Cluny far out into the lake.
As they passed along at some distance Archie saw that the shore was
in several places smooth and shelving, and that there would be no
difficulty in effecting a landing. He saw also that there were many
clumps of trees and shrubs in the garden.
"And do the nuns and the ladies at the convent often walk there?"
he asked the fisherman.
"Oh yes," he answered; "of an evening as I come back from fishing
I can see numbers of them walking there. When the vesper bell rings
they all go in. That is the chapel adjoining the convent on this
"It is a strong building," Archie said as when past the end of
the promontory they obtained a full view of it. "It is more like
a castle than a convent."
"It had need be strong," the old man said; "for some of the
richest heiresses in Scotland are shut up there. On the land side
I believe there are no windows on the lower storey, and the door
is said to be of solid iron. The windows on that side are all
strongly barred; and he would have hard work, indeed, who wanted
by force or stratagem to steal one of the pretty birds out of that
Archie had no idea of using force; and although he had been to some
extent concerned in the breach of sanctuary at Dumfries, he would
have shrunk from the idea of violating the sanctuary of St. Kenneth.
But to his mind there was no breach whatever of that sanctuary in
aiding one kept there against her will to make her escape. Having
ascertained all that he wished to know, he bade the boatman return
"Keep a lookout for me," he said, "for I may return in a few days
with another buck, and may bring a comrade or two with me who would
like an afternoon's fishing on the lake. I suppose you could lend
me your boat and nets?"
"Assuredly," the fisherman replied. "You will not mind taking into
consideration the hire of the boat in agreeing for the weight of
fish to be given for the stag?"
Archie nodded, secretly amused at the old man's covetousness, for
he knew that the weight of fish he had given him for the stag which
he had brought down was not one fourth the value of the meat.
He then returned with Cluny to the band. Some time before daybreak
he came down to the place again, and, entering the water quietly,
at a distance from the promontory, swam noiselessly out, and landed
at the garden, and there concealed himself in a clump of bushes.
Daylight came. An hour later some of the nuns of the second order,
who belonged to poor families and acted as servants in the convent,
came out into the garden, and busied themselves with the cultivation
of the flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Not till the afternoon did
any of the other inmates appear; but at about four o'clock the
great door of the convent opened, and a number of women and girls
streamed out. The former were all in nuns' attire, as were a few
of the latter, but their garb was somewhat different from that of
the elder sisters; these were the novices. The greater number,
however, of the girls were dressed in ordinary attire, and were the
pupils of the convent. While the nuns walked quietly up and down
or sat on benches and read, the pupils scattered in groups laughing
and talking merrily together. Among these Archie looked eagerly
for Marjory. He felt sure that her imprisonment could be detention
only, and not rigorous seclusion. Presently he espied her. She
was walking with two of the nuns and three or four of the elder
residents at the convent, for many of these were past the age of
pupildom; and were there simply as a safe place of refuge during
troublous times. The conversation appeared to be an animated one.
It was not for some time that the group passed within hearing of
Archie's place of concealment. Then Archie heard the voice of one
of the nuns raised in anger:
"It is monstrous what you say, and it is presumptuous and wicked
for a young girl of eighteen to form opinions for herself. What
should we come to if every young woman were to venture to think and
judge for herself? Discord and disorder would be wrought in every
family. All your relations and friends are opposed to this sacrilegious
murderer, Robert Bruce. The church has solemnly banned him, and
yet you venture to uphold his cause."
"But the Bishop of Glasgow," Marjory said, "and many other good
prelates of our church side with him, and surely they must be good
judges whether his sins are unpardonable."
"Do not argue with me," the sister said angrily. "I tell you this
obstinacy will be permitted no longer. Had it not been that Alexander
of Lorne begged that we would not be harsh with you, steps would
long since have been taken to bring you to reason; but we can no
longer permit this advocacy of rebellion, and the last unmaidenly
step which you took of setting at defiance your friends and relatives,
and even of sending messages hence, must be punished. The abbess
bade me reason with you and try and turn your obstinate will. Your
cousins of Badenoch here have appealed to you in vain. This can no
longer be tolerated. The lady abbess bids me tell you that she gives
you three days to renounce the rebel opinions you have so frowardly
held, and to accept the husband whom your uncle and guardian has
chosen for you, your cousin John of Lorne, his son. During that
time none will speak to you. If at the end of three days you are
still contumacious you will be confined to your cell on bread and
water until better thoughts come to you."
While the conversation had been going on, the little group had
halted near the bushes, and they now turned away, leaving Marjory
standing by herself. The girl sat down on a bench close to where
she had been standing, exclaiming to herself as she did so, "They
may shut me up as a prisoner for life, but I will never consent to
take sides against the cause of Scotland or to marry John of Lorne.
Oh! who is there?" she exclaimed, starting suddenly to her feet as
a man's voice behind her said:
"Quite right, Mistress Marjory, well and bravely resolved; but pray
sit down again, and assume an attitude of indifference."
"Who is it that speaks?" the girl asked in a tremulous voice,
resuming her seat.
"It is your true knight, lady, Archibald Forbes, who has come to
rescue you from this captivity."
"But how can you rescue me?" the girl asked after a long pause. "Do
you know the consequences if you are found here within the bounds
of the convent?"
"I care nothing for the consequences," Archie said. "I have in the
woods twenty stout followers. I propose tomorrow to be with three
of them on the lake afishing. If you, when the bell rings for your
return in the evening, will enter that little copse by the side of
the lake, and will show yourself at the water's edge, we will row
straight in and take you off long ere the guards can come hither
to hinder us. The lake is narrow, and we can reach the other side
before any boat can overtake us. There my followers will be awaiting
us, and we can escort you to a place of safety. It is fortunate
that you are ordered to be apart from the rest; none therefore will
mark you as you linger behind when the bell rings for vespers."
Marjory was silent for some time.
"But, Sir Knight," she said, "whither am I to go? for of all my
friends not one, save the good priest, but is leagued against me."
"I can take you either to the Bishop of Glasgow, who is a friend of
the Bruce and whom I know well -- he will, I am sure, take charge
of you -- or, if you will, lady, I can place you with my mother,
who will receive you as a daughter."
"But what," the girl said hesitatingly, "will people say at my
running away from a convent with a young knight?"
"Let them say what they will," Archie said. "All good Scots, when
they know that you have been in prison here solely from the love
of your country, will applaud the deed; and should you prefer it,
the king will, I know, place you in charge of the wife of one of
the nobles who adheres to him, and will give you his protection
and countenance. Think, lady, if you do not take this opportunity
of gaining your freedom, it may never occur again, for if you are
once shut up in your cell, as I heard threatened, nothing save an
attack by force of arms, which would be sheer sacrilege, can rescue
you from it. Surely," he urged, as the girl still remained silent,
"you can trust yourself with me. Do I not owe my life to you? and
I swear that so long as you remain in my charge I will treat you
as my sister in all honour and respect."
For some minutes the girl made no answer. At length she said,
standing up, and half turning toward the bushes:
"I will trust you, Sir Archie. I know you to be a brave and honourable
knight, and I will trust you. I know `tis a strange step to take,
and the world will blame me; but what can I do? If I refuse your
offer I shall be kept a prisoner here until I consent to marry John
of Lorne, whom I hate, for he is as rough and cruel as his father,
without the kindness of heart, which, save in his angry moments,
the latter has ever had toward me. All my relations are against
me, and struggle against my fate as I may, I must in the end bend
to their will if I remain here. `Tis a hard choice to make; but
what can I do? Yes, I will trust to your honour; and may God and
all the saints punish you if you are false to the trust! Tomorrow
evening, as the vespers are chiming, I will be at the water's edge,
behind yonder clump of bushes."
Then, with head bent down and slow steps, Marjory returned to
the convent, none addressing her as she passed through the groups
of her companions, the order that she was to be shut out from the
rest having been already issued. Archie remained in his place of
concealment until the gardens were deserted and night had fallen.
Then he left his hiding place, and, entering the lake, swam quietly
away, and landed far beyond the village. An hour's walk brought
him to the encampment of his comrades.
At daybreak next morning the band, under the command of William
Orr, started for their long march round the head of the lake to
the position which they were to take up on the opposite side facing
the convent, Archie choosing three of the number most accustomed
to the handling of oars to remain with him. With these he set out
on a hunt as soon as the main body had left, and by midday had
succeeded in killing a stag. With this swung on a pole carried by
his followers Archie proceeded to the village. He speedily found
the fisherman with whom he had before bargained.
"I did not expect you back again so soon," the old man said.
"We killed a buck this morning," Archie said carelessly, "and my
friends thought that the afternoon would be fine for fishing."
"You can try if you like," the fisherman said, "but I fear that
you will have but little sport. The day is too bright and clear,
and the fish will be sulking at the bottom of the lake."
"We will try," Archie said, "nevertheless. Even if the sport is
bad it will be pleasant out on the lake, and if we catch nothing we
will get you to give us some fresh fish instead of dry. The folks
in the hills will be no wiser, and it will not do for us to return
The fisherman assented, and placed the oars and nets in the boat,
and Archie and his companions entering rowed out into the middle
of the lake, and then throwing over the nets busied themselves with
As the old man had predicted, their sport was but small, but this
concerned them little. Thinking that they might be watched, they
continued steadily all the afternoon casting and drawing in the
nets, until the sun neared the horizon. Then they gathered the
nets into the boat and rowed quietly towards the shore. Just as
they were abreast the end of the promontory the bell of the chapel
began to ring the vespers. A few more strokes and Archie could
see the clump of bushes.
"Row quietly now," he said, still steering toward the village.
He was about a hundred yards distant from the shore of the convent
garden. Just as he came abreast of the bushes the foliage was parted
and Marjory appeared at the edge of the water. In an instant the
boat's head was turned toward shore, and the three rowers bent to
A shout from the watchman on the turret showed that he had been
watching the boat and that this sudden change of its course had
excited his alarm. The shout was repeated again and again as the
boat neared the shore, and just as the keel grated on the sand the
outer gate was opened and some armed men were seen running into the
garden, but they were still two hundred yards away. Marjory leapt
lightly into the boat; the men pushed off, and before the retainers
of the convent reached the spot the boat was speeding away over the
lake. Archie gave up to Marjory his seat in the stern, and himself
took an oar.
Loch Leven, though of considerable length, is narrow, and the boat
was nearly a third of the way across it before two or three craft
were seen putting out from the village in pursuit, and although
these gained somewhat, the fugitives reached the other shore a long
distance in advance. William Orr and his men were at the landing
place, and soon the whole party were hurrying through the wood.
They had no fear of instant pursuit, for even in the fast gathering
gloom those in the boats would have perceived the accession of
force which they had received on landing, and would not venture
to follow. But before morning the news of the evasion would spread
far and wide, and there would be a hot pursuit among the mountains.
Scarce a word had been spoken in the boat. Marjory was pale and
agitated, and Archie thought it best to leave her to herself. On
the way through the wood he kept beside her, assisting her over
rough places, and occasionally saying a few encouraging words. When
darkness had completely set in three or four torches were lit, and
they continued their way until midnight. Several times Archie had
proposed a halt, but Marjory insisted that she was perfectly able
to continue her way for some time longer.
At midnight, however, he halted.
"We will stop here," he said. "My men have been marching ever since
daybreak, and tomorrow we must journey fast and far. I propose that
we keep due east for some time and then along by Loch Rannoch, then
across the Grampians by the pass of Killiecrankie, when we can make
down to Perth, and so to Stirling. The news of your escape will
fly fast to the south, and the tracks to Tarbert and the Clyde
will all be watched; but if we start at daybreak we shall be far on
our way east before they begin to search the hills here; and even
if they think of our making in this direction, we shall be at
Killiecrankie before they can cut us off."
Chapter XX The Heiress of the Kerrs
While Archie was speaking Marjory had sat down on a fallen tree. She
had not slept the night before, and had been anxious and agitated
the whole day. The excitement had kept her up; but she now felt
completely worn out, and accepted without protest Archie's decision
that a halt must be made.
The men were already gathering sticks, and a bright fire soon blazed
near the spot where she had seated herself. Ere long some venison
steaks were broiled in the flames. At Archie's earnest request
Marjory tried to eat, but could with difficulty swallow a few
morsels. A bower of green boughs was quickly made for her, and the
ground thickly piled with fresh bracken, and Marjory was in a very
few minutes sound asleep after the fatigue and excitement of the
With the first dawn of morning the men were on their feet. Fresh
sticks were thrown on the fire and breakfast prepared, for the
march would be a long and wearisome one.
"Breakfast is ready, Mistress Marjory," Archie said, approaching
"And I am ready too," the girl said blithely as she appeared at
the entrance. "The sleep has done wonders for me, and I feel brave
and fresh again. I fear you must have thought me a terrible coward
yesterday; but it all seemed so dreadful, such a wild and wicked
thing to do, that I felt quite overwhelmed. Today you will find me
ready for anything."
"I could never think you a coward," Archie said, "after you faced
the anger of that terrible uncle of yours for my sake; or rather,"
he added, "for the sake of your word. And now I hope you will eat
something, for we have a long march through the forest and hills
"Don't fear that I shall tire," she said. "I am half a mountaineer
myself, and, methinks, can keep on my feet as long as any man."
The meal was hastily eaten, and then the party started on their
"I have been wondering," the girl said, as with light steps she
kept pace with Archie's longer strides, "how you came to know that
I was in the convent."
Archie looked surprised.
"How should I know, Mistress Marjory, but through your own messenger?"
"My own messenger!" Marjory exclaimed. "You are jesting, Sir Archie."
"I am not so, fair lady," he said. "Surely you must remember that
you sent a messenger to me, with word that you were captive at St.
Kenneth and needed my aid?"
The girl stopped for a moment in her walk and gazed at her companion
as if to assure herself that he was in earnest. "You must be surely
dreaming, Sir Archie," she said, as she continued the walk, "for
assuredly I sent you no such message."
"But, lady," Archie said, holding out his hand, "the messenger
brought me as token that he had come from you this ring which I
had given you, vowing that should you call me to your aid I would
come immediately, even from a stricken field."
The blood had rushed into the girl's face as she saw the ring.
Then she turned very pale. "Sir Archibald Forbes," she said in
a low tone, after walking for a minute or two in silence, "I feel
disgraced in your eyes. How forward and unmaidenly must you have
thought me thus to take advantage of a vow made from the impulse
of sudden gratitude."
"No, indeed, lady," Archie said hotly. "No such thought ever entered
my mind. I should as soon doubt the holy Virgin herself as to deem
you capable of aught but what was sweet and womanly. The matter
seemed to me simple enough. You had saved my life at great peril
to yourself, and it seemed but natural to me that in your trouble,
having none others to befriend you, your thoughts should turn to
one who had sworn to be to the end of his life your faithful knight
and servant. But," he went on more lightly, "since you yourself
did not send me the ring and message, what good fairy can have
brought them to me?"
"The good fairy was a very bad one," the girl said shortly, "and I
will rate him soundly when I see him for thus adventuring without
my consent. It is none other than Father Anselm; and yet," she
added, "he has suffered so much on my behalf that I shall have to
forgive him. After your escape my uncle in his passion was well
nigh hanging the good priest in spite of his holy office, and drove
him from the castle. He kept me shut up in my room for many weeks,
and then urged upon me the marriage with his son. When he found
that I would not listen to it he sent me to St. Kenneth, and there
I have remained ever since. Three weeks ago Father Anselm came to
see me. He had been sent for by Alexander of Lorne, who, knowing
the influence he had with me, begged him to undertake the mission
of inducing me to bend to his will. As he knew how much I hated
John of Lorne, the good priest wasted not much time in entreaties;
but he warned me that it had been resolved that unless I gave way
my captivity, which had hitherto been easy and pleasant, would be
made hard and rigorous, and that I would be forced into accepting
John of Lorne as a husband. When he saw that I was determined not
to give in, the good priest certainly hinted" (and here she coloured
again hotly) "that you would, if sent for, do your best to carry
me off. Of course I refused to listen to the idea, and chided him
for suggesting so unmaidenly a course. He urged it no further, and
I thought no more of the matter. The next day I missed my ring,
which, to avoid notice, I had worn on a little ribbon round my
neck. I thought at the time the ribbon must have broken and the
ring been lost, and for a time I made diligent search in the garden
for it; but I doubt not now that the traitor priest, as I knelt
before him to receive his blessing on parting, must have severed
the ribbon and stolen it."
"God bless him!" Archie said fervently. "Should he ever come to
Aberfilly the warmest corner by the fire, the fattest capon, and
the best stoop of wine from the cellar shall be his so long as
he lives. Why, but for him, Lady Marjory, you might have worn out
months of your life in prison, and have been compelled at last to
wed your cousin. I should have been a miserable man for life."
The girl laughed.
"I would have given you a week, Sir Archie, and no more; that
is the extreme time which a knight in our days can be expected to
mourn for the fairest lady; and now," she went on, changing the
subject, "think you we shall reach the pass across the Grampians
"If all goes well, lady, and your feet will carry you so far,
we shall be there by eventide. Unless by some chance encounter we
need have no fear whatever of pursuit. It will have been daylight
before the news of your flight fairly spread through the country,
though, doubtless, messengers were sent off at once in all directions;
but it would need an army to scour these woods, and as they know
not whether we have gone east, west, north, or south, the chance is
faint indeed of any party meeting us, especially as we have taken
so straight a line that they must march without a pause in exactly
the right direction to come up with us."
At nightfall the party camped again on the slope of the Grampians,
and the following morning crossed by the pass of Killiecrankie and
made toward Perth.
The next night Marjory slept in a peasant's cottage, Archie and his
companions lying down without. Wishing to avoid attention, Archie
purchased from the peasant the Sunday clothes of his daughter, who
was about the same age and size as Marjory.
When they reached Perth he bought a strong horse, with saddle and
pillion; and with Marjory behind him, and his band accompanying
him on foot, he rode for Stirling. When he neared the town he heard
that the king was in the forest of Falkirk, and having consulted
Marjory as to her wishes rode directly thither.
Bruce, with his followers, had arrived but the day before, and
had taken up his abode at the principal house of a village in the
forest. He came to the door when he heard the trampling of a horse.
"Ah! Sir Archie, is it you safely returned, and, as I half expected,
"This, sire," Archie said, dismounting, "is Mistress Marjory
MacDougall, of whom, as you have heard me say, I am the devoted
knight and servant. She has been put in duress by Alexander of Lorne
because in the first place she was a true Scots woman and favoured
your cause, and because in the second place she refused to espouse his
son John. I have borne her away from the convent of St. Kenneth,
and as I used no force in doing so no sacrilege has been committed.
I have brought her to you in all honour and courtesy, as I might a
dear sister, and I now pray you to place her under the protection
of the wife of one of your knights, seeing that she has no friends
and natural protectors here. Then, when she has time to think, she
must herself decide upon her future."
The king assisted Marjory to dismount.
"Fair mistress," he said, "Sir Archibald Forbes is one of the bravest
and truest of my knights, and in the hands of none might you more
confidently place your honour. Assuredly I will do as he asks me,
and will place you under the protection of Dame Elizabeth Graham,
who is now within, having ridden hither to see her husband but this
morning. But I trust," he added, with a meaning smile, "that you
will not long require her protection."
The king entered the house with Marjory, while Archie, with his
band, rejoined the rest of his party, who were still with the king.
After having seen that the wants of those who had accompanied him
had been supplied he returned to the royal quarters. The king met
him at the door, and said, with a merry smile on his face:
"I fear me, Sir Archie, that all my good advice with regard to
Mistress Mary Kerr has been wasted, and that you are resolved to
make this Highland damsel, the niece of my arch enemy Alexander of
Lorne, your wife."
"If she will have me," Archie said stoutly, "such assuredly, is
my intent; but of that I know nothing, seeing that, while she was
under my protection, it would have been dishonourable to have spoken
of love; and I know nought of her sentiments toward me, especially
seeing that she herself did not, as I had hoped, send for me to come
to her aid, and was indeed mightily indignant that another should
have done so in her name."
"Poor Sir Archie!" the king laughed. "Though a man, and a valorous
one in stature and in years, you are truly but a boy yet in these
matters. It needed but half an eye to see by the way she turned
pale and red when you spoke to her that she loves you. Now look
you, Sir Archie," he went on more seriously; "these are troubled
days, and one knows not what a day may bring forth. Graham's tower
is neither strong nor safe, and the sooner this Mistress Marjory
of yours is safely in your stronghold of Aberfilly the better for
both of you, and for me also, for I know that you will be of no
more good to me so long as your brain is running on her. Look you
now, she is no longer under your protection, and your scruples on
that head are therefore removed; best go in at once and ask her
if she will have you. If she says, 'Yes,' we will ride to Glasgow
tomorrow or next day. The bishop shall marry you, and I myself will
give you your bonny bride. This is no time for wasting weeks with
milliners and mantua makers. What say you?"
"Nothing would more surely suit my wishes, sire," Archie said; "but
I fear she will think me presumptuous."
"Not a bit of it," the king laughed. "Highland lassies are accustomed
to sudden wooing, and I doubt not that when she freed you last
autumn from Dunstaffnage her mind was just as much made up as yours
is as to the state of her heart. Come along, sir."
So saying, the king passed his arm through that of Archie, and
drew him into the house. In the room which they entered Marjory
was sitting with Lady Graham. Both rose as the king entered.
"My Lady Graham," the king said, "this my good and faithful knight
Sir Archie Forbes, whose person as well as repute is favourably
known to you, desires to speak alone with the young lady under
your protection. I may say he does so at my special begging, seeing
that at times like these the sooner matters are put in a straight
course the better. Will you let me lead you to the next room while
we leave the young people together?"
"Marjory," Archie said, when he and the girl were alone, "I fear
that you will think my wooing rude and hasty, but the times must
excuse it. I would fain have waited that you might have seen more
of me before I tried my fate; but in these troubled days who can
say where I may be a week hence, or when I can see you again were
I once separated from you! Therefore, dear, I speak at once. I
love you, Marjory, and since the day when you came like an angel
into my cell at Dunstaffnage I have known that I loved you, and
should I never see you again could love none other. Will you wed
"But the king tells me, Sir Archie," the girl said, looking up with
a half smile, "that he wishes you to wed the Lady Mary Kerr."
"It is a dream of the good king," Archie said, laughing, "and he
is not in earnest about it. He knows that I have never set eyes on
the lady or she on me, and he was but jesting when he said so to
you, having known from me long ago that my heart was wholly yours."
"Besides," the girl said hesitating, "you might have objected to
wed Mistress Kerr because her father was an enemy of yours."
"Why dwell upon it?" Archie said a little impatiently. "Mistress
Kerr is nothing in the world to me, and I had clean forgotten her
very existence, when by some freak or other she sent her retainers
to fight under my command. She may be a sweet and good lady for what
I know; she may be the reverse. To me she is absolutely nothing;
and now, Marjory, give me my answer. I love you, dear, deeply and
truly; and should you say, 'Yes,' will strive all my life to make
"One more question, Archie, and then I will answer yours. Tell me
frankly, had I been Mary Kerr instead of Marjory MacDougall, could
you so far forget the ancient feud between the families as to say
to me, 'I love you.'"
"The question is easily answered. Were you your own dear self it
would matter nought to me were your name Kerr, or MacDougall, or
Comyn, or aught else. It is you I love, and your ancestors or your
relations matter to me not one single jot."
"Then I will answer you," the girl said, putting her hand in his.
"Archie Forbes, I love you with my whole heart, and have done
so since I first met you; but," she said, drawing back, as Archie
would have clasped her in his arms, "I must tell you that you have
been mistaken, and that it is not Marjory MacDougall whom you would
wed, but Mary, whom her uncle Alexander always called Marjory,
"Marjory Kerr!" Archie repeated, in astonishment.
"Yes, Archie, Marjory or Mary Kerr. The mistake was none of my
making; it was you called me MacDougall; and knowing that you had
reason to hate my race I did not undeceive you, thinking you might
even refuse the boon of life at the hands of a Kerr. But I believed
that when you thought it over afterwards you would suspect the
truth, seeing that it must assuredly come to your ears if you spoke
of your adventure, even if you did not already know it, that Sir
John Kerr and Alexander of Lorne married twin sisters of the house
of Comyn. You are not angry, I hope, Archie?"
"Angry!" Archie said, taking the girl, who now yielded unresistingly,
in his arms. "It matters nothing to me who you were; and truly I
am glad that the long feud between our houses will come to an end.
My conscience, too, pricked me somewhat when I heard that by the
death of your brother you had succeeded to the estates, and that
it was in despite of a woman, and she a loyal and true hearted
Scotswoman, that I was holding Aberfilly. So it was you sent the
retainers from Ayr to me?"
"Yes," Marjory replied. "Father Anselm carried my orders to them.
I longed to know that they were fighting for Scotland, and was sure
that under none could they be better led."
"And you have told the king who you are?" Archie asked.
"Yes," the girl said, "directly we entered."
"And you agree that we shall be married at once at Glasgow, as the
king has suggested to me?"
"The king said as much to me," Marjory said, colouring; "but oh!
Archie, it seems dreadful, such an unseemly bustle and haste, to
be betrothed one day and married the next! Whoever heard of such
"But the circumstances, Marjory, are exceptional. We all carry our
lives in our hands, and things must be done which at another time
would seem strange. Besides, what advantage would there be in
waiting? I should be away fighting the English, and you would see
no more of me. You would not get to know me better than you do
"Oh! it is not that, Archie."
"Nor is it anything else," Archie said smiling, "but just surprise.
With the King of Scotland to give you away and the Bishop of Glasgow
to marry you, none can venture to hint that there is anything that
is not in the highest degree orthodox in your marriage. Of course
I shall have to be a great deal away until the war is over and
Scotland freed of her tyrants. But I shall know that you are safe
at Aberfilly, which is quite secure from any sudden attack. You will
have my mother there to pet you and look after you in my absence,
and I hope that good Father Anselm will soon find his way there and
take up his abode. It is the least he can do, seeing that, after
all, he is responsible for our marriage, and having, as it were,
delivered you into my hands, ought to do his best to make you happy
in your captivity."
Marjory raised no further objection. She saw, in truth, that,
having once accepted Archie Forbes as her husband, it was in every
way the best plan for her to marry him without delay, since she had
no natural protectors to go to, and her powerful relations might
stir up the church to view her evasion from the convent as a defiance
of its authority.
Upon the following day the king moved with his force to Glasgow,
which had already been evacuated by the English garrison, and
the next morning Marjory -- for Archie through life insisted upon
calling her by the pet name under which he had first known her -- was
married to Sir Archibald Forbes. The Bruce gave her away, and
presented her with a splendid necklet of pearls. His brother Edward,
Sir James Douglas, and other companions of Archie in the field also
made the bride handsome presents. Archie's followers from Aberfilly
and the contingent from Marjory's estates in Ayr were also present,
together with a crowd of the townspeople, for Archie Forbes, the
companion of Wallace, was one of the most popular characters in
Scotland, and the good city of Glasgow made a fete of his marriage.
Suddenly as it was arranged, a number of the daughters of the wealthiest
citizens attired in white attended the bride in procession to the
altar. Flowers were strewn and the bride and bridegroom were heartily
cheered by a concourse of people as they left the cathedral.
The party then mounted, and the king, his brother, Sir James Douglas,
and some other knights, together with a strong escort, rode with
them to Aberfilly. Archie had despatched a messenger to his mother
with the news directly the arrangements had been made; and all
was prepared for their coming. The tenants had assembled to give a
hearty welcome to their lord and new mistress. Dame Forbes received
her as she alighted from the pillion on which she had ridden behind
Archie, and embraced her tenderly.
It was the dearest wish of her life that Archie should marry; and
although, when she first heard the news, she regretted in her heart
that he should have chosen a Kerr, still she saw that the union
would put an end to the long feud, and might even, in the event
of the final defeat of Bruce, be the means of safety for Archie
himself and security for his possessions.
She soon, however, learned to love Marjory for herself, and to be
contented every way with her son's choice. There was high feasting
and revelry at Aberfilly that evening. Bonfires were burned in the
castle yard, and the tenants feasted there, while the king and his
knights were entertained in the hall of the castle.
The next morning the king and his companions again mounted and
rode off. Sir James Douglas was going south to harry Galloway and
to revenge the assaults which the people had made upon the king.
There was a strong English force there under Sir Ingram Umfraville
and Sir John de St. John.
"I will give you a week, Sir Archie, to take holiday, but can spare
you no longer. We have as yet scarce begun our work, for well nigh
every fortress in Scotland is in English hands, and we must take as
many of them as we can before Edward moves across the Border again."
"I will not outstay the time," Sir Archie said. "As we arranged
last night, I will march this day week with my retainers to join
Sir James Douglas in Galloway."
Chapter XXI The Siege of Aberfilly
Punctual to his agreement, Archie Forbes marched south with his
retainers. He was loath, indeed, to leave Marjory, but he knew well
that a long time indeed must elapse before he could hope to settle
down quietly at home, and that it was urgent to hurry on the work
at once before the English made another great effort to stamp out
the movement. Marjory did not attempt to induce him to overstay
his time. She was too proud of his position as one of the foremost
knights of Scotland to say a word to detain him from the field.
So she bade him adieu with a brave face, reserving her tears until
after he had ridden away.
It had been arranged that Archie should operate independently
of Douglas, the two joining their forces only when threatened
by overwhelming numbers or when any great enterprise was to be
undertaken. Archie took with him a hundred and fifty men from his
estates in Lanark and Ayr. He marched first to Loudon Hill, then
down through Cumnock and the border of Carrick into Galloway. Contrary
to the usual custom, he enjoined his retainers on no account to
burn or harry the villages and granges.
"The people," he said, "are not responsible for the conduct of
their lords, and as I would not see the English harrying the country
round Aberfilly, so I am loath to carry fire and sword among these
poor people. We have come hither to punish their lords and to capture
their castles. If the country people oppose us we must needs fight
them; but beyond what is necessary for our provisions let us take
nothing from them, and show them, by our conduct, that we hold
them to be Scotchmen like ourselves, and that we pity rather than
blame them, inasmuch as by the orders of their lords they are forced
to fight against us."
Archie had not advanced more than a day's march into Galloway when
he heard that Sir John de St. John was marching with four hundred
men-at-arms to meet him.
There were no better soldiers in the following of Bruce than the
retainers of Aberfilly and Glen Cairn. They had now for many years
been frequently under arms, and were thoroughly trained to fight
together. They had the greatest confidence in themselves and their
leader, and having often with their spears withstood the shock
of the English chivalry, Archie knew that he could rely upon them
to the fullest. He therefore took up a position on the banks of
a river where a ford would enable the enemy to cross. Had he been
less confident as to the result he would have defended the ford,
which could be only crossed by two horsemen abreast. He determined,
however, to repeat the maneuver which had proved so successful at
Stirling Bridge, and to let half of the enemy cross before he fell
The ground near the river was stony and rough. Great boulders,
which had rolled from the hillside, were thickly scattered about
it, and it would be difficult for cavalry to charge up the somewhat
steeply sloping ground in anything like unbroken order.
With eighty of his men Archie took up a position one hundred yards
back from the stream. With great exertions some of the smaller
boulders were removed, and rocks and stones were piled to make a
wall on either flank of the ground, which, standing two deep, he
occupied. The remaining seventy men he divided equally, placing one
company under the command of each of his two faithful lieutenants,
Andrew Macpherson and William Orr. These took post near the river,
one on each side of the ford, and at a distance of about one hundred
yards therefrom. Orr's company were hidden among some bushes growing
by the river. Macpherson's lay down among the stones and boulders,
and were scarce likely to attract the attention of the English,
which would naturally be fixed upon the little body drawn up to
oppose them in front. The preparations were scarcely completed
when the English were seen approaching. They made no halt at the
river, but at once commenced crossing at the ford, confident in
their power to overwhelm the little body of Scots, whose number
had, it seemed to them, been exaggerated by the fears of the country
people. As soon as a hundred of the men-at-arms had passed, their
leader marshalled them in line, and with level spears charged up
the slopes against Archie's force. The great boulders broke their
ranks, and it was but in straggling order that they reached the
narrow line of Scottish spears. These they in vain endeavoured to
break through. Their numbers were of no avail to them, as, being
on horseback, but twenty men at a time could attack the double row
of spearmen. While the conflict was at its height Archie's trumpet
was sounded, for he saw that another hundred men had now crossed
At the signal the two hidden parties leapt to their feet, and with
levelled pikes rushed towards the ford. The English had no force
there to resist the attack, for as the men-at-arms had passed, each
had ridden on to join the fray in front. The head of the ford was
therefore seized with but little difficulty. Orr, with twenty men,
remained here to hold it and prevent others from crossing, while
Macpherson, with fifty, ran up the hill and fell upon the rear of
the confused masses of cavalry, who were striving in vain to break
the lines of Archie's spears.
The attack was decisive; the English, surprised and confused by
the sudden attack, were unable to offer any effectual resistance to
Macpherson's pikemen, and at the same moment that these fell upon
the rear, Archie gave the word and his men rushed forward upon the
struggling mass of cavalry. The shock was irresistible; men and
horses fell in numbers under the Scottish spears, and in a few
minutes those who could manage to extricate themselves from the
struggling mass rode off in various directions. These, however, were
few in number, for ninety were killed and seventy taken prisoners.
St. John himself succeeded in cutting his way through the spearmen,
and, swimming the river below the ford, rejoined his followers,
who had in vain endeavoured to force the passage of the ford. With
these he rapidly retired.
A detachment of fifty men were sent off with the prisoners to
Bruce, and Archie, with the main body of his followers, two days
later joined the force under Sir James Douglas.
Upon the following morning a messenger from Aberfilly reached
"My lord," he said, "I bring you a message from the Lady Marjory.
I have spent five days in searching for you, and have never but
once laid down during that time, therefore do not blame me if my
message is long in coming."
"What is it, Evan? nought is wrong there, I trust?"
"The Lady Marjory bade me tell you that news has reached her, that
from each of the garrisons of Ayr, Lanark, Stirling and Bothwell,
a force is marching toward your hold, which the governor of Bothwell
has sworn to destroy. When I left they were expected hourly in
sight, and this is full a week since."
"Aberfilly can hold out for longer than that," Archie said, "against
aught but surprise, and the vassals would have had time to gather."
"Yes," the man replied, "they were flocking in when I came away; the
men of Glen Cairn had already arrived; all the women and children
were taking to the hills, according to the orders which you gave."
"And now, good Evan, do you eat some supper, and then rest. No
wonder you have been so long in finding me, for I have been wandering
without ceasing. I will start at once with my followers here for
Aberfilly; by tomorrow evening we will be there."
Archie hurried to the hut occupied by Douglas, told him the news,
and said he must hurry away to the defence of his castle.
"Go, by all means, Archie," Douglas replied. "If I can gather a
force sufficient to relieve you I will myself march thither; but
at present I fear that the chances of my doing so are small, for
the four garrisons you have named would be able to spare a force
vastly larger than any with which I could meet them in the field,
and the king is no better able to help you."
"I will do my best," Archie said. "The castle can stand a stout
siege; and fortunately I have a secret passage by which we can
"Never mind the castle," Douglas replied. "When better days come
we will rebuild it again for you."
A few notes on a horn brought Archie's little band of followers
together. Telling them the danger which threatened Glen Cairn,
Archie placed himself at their head, and at a rapid step they
marched away. It was five-and-forty miles across the hills, but
before morning they approached it, and made their way to the wood in
which was the entrance to the subterranean passage leading to the
castle. Archie had feared that they might find the massive doors
which closed it, a short distance from the entrance, securely
fastened as usual. They were shut, indeed, but as they approached
them they heard a challenge from within.
"It is I, Sir Archie Forbes."
The door was opened at once. "Welcome, Sir Archie!" the guard said.
"The Lady Marjory has been expecting you for the last five days,
and a watch has been kept here constantly, to open the doors should
"The messenger could not find me," Archie said. "Is all well at
"All is well," the man replied. "The English have made two attacks,
but have been beaten back with loss. This morning some great
machines have arrived from Stirling and have begun battering the
walls. Is it your will that I remain here on guard, now that you
"Yes," Archie answered. "It were best that one should be always
stationed here, seeing that the entrance might perchance be
discovered by one wandering in the wood, or they might obtain the
secret of its existence from a prisoner. If footsteps are heard
approaching retire at once with the news. There is no danger if
we are warned in time, for we can turn the water from the moat into
Archie and his followers now made their way along the passage until
they entered the castle. As they issued out from the entrance a
shout of joy rose from those near, and the news rapidly flew through
the castle that Archie had arrived. In a moment Marjory ran down
and threw herself into his arms.
"Welcome back, Archie, a thousand times! I have been grievously
anxious as the days went on and you did not return, and had feared
that some evil must have befallen you. It has been a greater anxiety
to me than the defence of the castle; but I have done my best to
be hopeful and bright, to keep up the spirits of our followers."
"It was no easy task for your messenger to find me, Marjory, for
we are ever on the move. Is my mother here?"
"No, Archie, she went a fortnight since on a visit to Lady Gordon."
"It is well," Archie said, "for if in the end we have to leave the
castle, you, who have proved yourself so strong and brave, can,
if needs be, take to the hills with me; but she could not support
the fatigues of such a life. And now, dear, we have marched all
night and shall be glad of food; while it is preparing I will to
the walls and see what is going on."
As Archie reached the battlement a loud cheer broke from the
defenders gathered there, and Sandy Grahame hurried up to him.
"Welcome back, Sir Archie; glad am I to give up the responsibility
of this post, although, indeed, it is not I who have been in command,
but Lady Marjory. She has been always on the walls, cheering the
men with her words and urging them to deeds of bravery; and, indeed,
she has frightened me sorely by the way in which she exposed herself
where the arrows were flying most thickly, for as I told her over
and over again, if the castle were taken I knew that you would be
sure that I had done my best, but what excuse should I be able to
make to you if I had to bear you the news that she had been killed?"
"And what did she say to that, Sandy?"
"Truth, Sir Archie, she's a woman and wilful, and she just laughed
and said that you would know you could not keep her in order
yourself, and could not therefore expect me to rule her."
"That is so, Sandy," Archie laughed; "but now that I am back I
will for once exert my authority, and will see that she runs into
no further danger. And now, how goes the siege?"
"So far they have done but little damage, Sir Archie; but the
machines which they brought up yesterday will, I fear, play havock
with our walls. They have not yet begun their work, for when they
brought them up yesterday afternoon our men shot so hotly that they
had to fall back again; but in the night they have thrown up high
banks of earth, and have planted the engines under their shelter,
and will, ere long, begin to send their messengers against our
walls. Thrice they assaulted the works beyond the drawbridge and
twice we beat them back; but last night they came on with all their
force. I was myself there, and after fighting for a while and seeing
they were too strong for us, I thought it best to withdraw before
they gained footing in the work, and so had time to draw off the
men and raise the drawbridge."
"Quite right, Sandy! The defenders of the post would only have
been slaughtered, and the assailants might have rushed across the
drawbridge before it could have been raised. The post is of little
importance save to defend the castle against a sudden surprise, and
would only have been a source of constant anxiety and loss. How
many do you reckon them? Judging by their tents there must be
three or four thousand."
"About three thousand, Sir Archie, I make it; and as we had no time
to get the tenants in from my lady's Ayrshire estate, we have but
two hundred men in the castle, and many of these are scarce more
"I have brought a hundred and fifty with me, Sandy, so we have as
many as we can use on the walls, though I could wish I had another
hundred or two for sorties."
Half an hour later the great machines began to work, hurling vast
stones with tremendous force against the castle wall. Strongly
as this was built, Archie saw that it would ere many days crumble
before the blows.
"I did not reckon on such machines as these," he said to Sandy.
"Doubtless they are some of the huge machines which King Edward
had constructed for the siege of Stirling, and which have remained
there since the castle was taken. Fortunately we have still the
moat when a breach is made, and it will be hard work to cross that."
All day the great stones thundered against the wall. The defenders
were not idle, but kept up a shower of arrows at the edge of the
mound behind which the machines were hidden; but although many of
those working there were killed, fresh relays came constantly up,
and the machines never ceased their work. By nightfall the face
of the wall was bruised and battered. Many of the stones in front
had fallen from their places.
"Another twenty-four hours," Archie said to Marjory, as he joined
her in the great hall, "and the breach will be begun, forty-eight
and it will be completed. They will go on all night, and we may
expect no rest until the work is done. In an hour's time I shall
sally out from the passage into the wood and beat up their camp.
Expecting no attack from the rear, we shall do them rare damage
ere they can gather to oppose us. As soon as they do so we shall
be off again, and, scattering in various directions, gather again
in the wood and return here."
An hour later Archie, with two hundred men, started. No sooner had
he left than Marjory called Sandy Grahame and Andrew Macpherson,
whom he had left in joint command during his absence.
"Now," she said, "I am not going to remain quiet here while
Sir Archie does all the fighting, therefore do you gather all the
garrison together, leaving only twenty to hold the gate. See that
the wheels of the drawbridge are well oiled, and the hinges of the
gate. Directly we see that the attack has begun upon the camp we
will lower the drawbridge quietly, open the gates, and sally out.
There is no great force in the outer work. When we have cleared
that -- which, if we are quick, we can do without alarming the
camp, seeing what a confusion and uproar will be going on there
-- we will make straight along to the point where the machines are
placed. Let some of the men take axes and cut the ropes, and let
others carry faggots well steeped in oil, we will pile them round
the machines and light them, and thus having ensured their destruction,
we will fall back again."
"But, Lady Marjory -- " Sandy began.
"I will have no buts, Sandy; you must just do as I order you, and
I will answer to Sir Archie. I shall myself go forth with you and
see that the work is properly done."
The two men looked doubtfully at each other.
"Now, Andrew," Marjory said briskly, "let us have no hesitation or
talk, the plan is a good one."
"I do not say that it is not a good one," Sandy replied cautiously,
"or that it is not one that Sir Archie might have carried out if
he had been here."
"Very well, Andrew, then that is quite enough. I give you the
orders and I am responsible, and if you and Sandy do not choose to
obey me, I shall call the men together myself and lead them without
As Sandy and Andrew were quite conscious that their lady would be
as good as her word, they at once proceeded to carry her orders into
effect. The wheels of the portcullis and drawbridge were oiled, as
were the bolts and hinges of the gate. The men were formed up in
the courtyard, where presently they were joined by Marjory who had
put on a light steel cap and a shirt of mail, and who had armed herself
with a light sword. The men gathered round her enthusiastically,
and would have burst into cheers had she not held up her hand to
"I will to the wall now," she said, "to watch for the signal. The
instant the attack begins and the attention of those in the outwork
is called that way, draw up the portcullis noiselessly and open
the gate, oil the hinges of the drawbridge and have everything
in readiness; then I will join you. Let the drawbridge be lowered
swiftly, and as it falls we will rush across. You have, I suppose,
told off the men who are to remain behind. Tell them that when
the last of us have crossed they are to raise the drawbridge a few
feet, so that none can cross it until we return."
Then, accompanied by Macpherson, she ascended the walls. All was
quiet in the hostile camp, which was about a quarter of a mile
distant, and only the creaking of the wheels of the machines, the
orders of those directing them, and the dull crash as the great
stones struck the wall, broke the stillness of the night. For half
an hour they watched, and then a sudden uproar was heard in the
camp. The Scottish war cry pealed out, followed by shouts and
yells, and almost instantly flames were seen to mount up.
"My lord is at work," Marjory said, "it is time for us to be doing
also." So saying she ran down to the courtyard. Sandy Grahame,
Macpherson, and a few picked men took their place around her, then
the drawbridge was suddenly run down, and the Scots dashed across
it. As Marjory had anticipated, the English in the outwork had
gathered on the farther side and were watching the sudden outbreak
in the camp. Alarmed at the prospect of an attack, perhaps by the
Bruce, in that quarter, they were suddenly startled by the rush
of feet across the drawbridge, and before they had time to recover
from their surprise the Scots were upon them. The latter were
superior in numbers, and the English, already alarmed by the attack
upon their camp, offered but a feeble resistance. Many were cut
down, but the greater part leapt from the wall and fled towards
the camp. The moment resistance ceased the outer gate was thrown
open, and at full speed the Scotch made for the machines. The party
here had suspended their work and were gazing towards the camp,
where the uproar was now great. The wind was blowing briskly and
the fire had spread with immense rapidity, and already half the
camp was in flames. Suddenly from the bank above the Scots poured
down upon them like a torrent. There was scarcely a thought of
resistance. Stricken with dismay and astonishment at this unexpected
attack, the soldiers working the machines fled hastily, only a few
falling beneath the swords of the Scots. The men with axes at once
fell upon the machines, cutting the ropes and smashing the wheels
and levers which worked them, while those with the faggots piled
them round. In less than two minutes the work was done, lighted
torches were applied to the faggots, and the flames soon shot up
The Scots waited but a minute or two to see that the work was
thoroughly done and that the flames had got fair hold, and then,
keeping in a close body, they retired to the castle. Not a soul
was met with by the way, and leaving Andrew Macpherson with fifty
men to hold the outwork until Archie should return and decide
whether it should be occupied, Marjory, with the rest, re-entered
She at once ascended to the walls again, where Sandy also posted
the men to be in readiness to open fire with their arrows should
the English return and endeavour to extinguish the flames round
the machines. The sound of fighting had ceased at the camp. By the
light of the flames numbers of the English could be seen pulling
down the tents which the fire had not yet reached and endeavouring
to check the conflagration, while a large body of horse and foot
were rapidly advancing toward the castle.
As soon as they came within bowshot range the archers opened fire,
and the English leaders, seeing that it was already too late to
save the machines, which were by this time completely enveloped in
flames, and that men would only be sacrificed to no good purpose,
halted the troops. They then moved towards the outwork, but finding
this in possession of the Scots, they fell back again to the camp
to take council as to the next steps to be adopted. Archie's attack
had been crowned with complete success. Apprehending no danger
from behind, the English had neglected to place sentries there,
and the Scots were already among the tents before their presence
was discovered. Numbers of the English were cut down and the tents
fired, and as soon as the English recovered from their first surprise
and began to form, Archie gave the word for a retreat. This was
effected without molestation, for the first thought of the English
was to save the camp from total destruction. The reports of the
men who escaped from the castle outwork and the outburst of flames
around the machines added to the confusion which reigned, and the
leaders, who had by the light of the flames ascertained that the
assault upon the camp had been made by a small body of the enemy,
deemed it of the first importance to move at once to save the
machines if it were still possible.
The Scots regained the entrance to the passage without the loss
of a single man, and passing through, soon re-entered the castle.
Marjory had laid aside her warlike trappings and awaited her
husband's return at the inner entrance of the passage.
"We have had good success, Marjory," Archie said as he greeted
her, "as you will have seen from the walls. The greater part of
the English camp is destroyed; we have killed great numbers, and
have not lost a man."
"That is good news indeed, Archie. We, too, have not been quite
idle while you have been away."
"Why, what have you been doing, Marjory?" Archie asked in surprise.
"Come up to the walls and I will show you."
Archie mounted with her, and gave a start of surprise as he looked
towards the machines. The great body of fire had died down now, but
the beams of the machines stood up red and glowing, while a light
flickering flame played round them.
"You see we have not been idle, Archie. We have destroyed the
machines, and retaken the outwork, which is now held by Andrew
Macpherson with fifty men."
"Why, what magic is this, wife?"
"No magic at all, Sir Knight. We have been carrying out the work
which you, as a wise and skilful commander, should have ordered
before you left. We have taken advantage of the confusion of the
enemy by the fire in their camp, and have made a sortie, and a
successful one, as you see."
"I am delighted, indeed," Archie said; "and the destruction of
those machines is indeed a great work. Still Sandy and Macpherson
should not have undertaken it without orders from me; they might
have been cut off and the castle stormed before I came back."
"They had orders from me, sir, and that was quite sufficient. To
do them justice, they hesitated about obeying me, and I was well
nigh ordering them to the dungeon for disobedience; and they only
gave way at last when I said they could stop at home if they liked,
but that I should lead out the retainers. Of course I went in your
place with armour and sword; but perhaps it was as well that I had
no fighting to do."
"Do you mean, Marjory, that you really led the sortie?"
"I don't think I led it, Archie; but I certainly went out with it,
and very exciting it was. There, dear, don't look troubled. Of
course, as chatelaine of the castle, I was bound to animate my
"You have done bravely and well, indeed, Marjory, and I am proud
of my wife. Still, dear, I tremble at the thought of the risk you
"No more risk than you are constantly running, Archie; and I am
rather glad you tremble, because in future you will understand my
feelings better, left here all alone while you are risking your
life perpetually with the king."
The success of the sally and the courage and energy shown by Marjory
raised the spirits of the garrison to the highest pitch; and had
Archie given the word they would have sallied out and fallen upon
the besiegers. Two days later fresh machines arrived from Stirling,
and the attack again commenced, the besiegers keeping a large body
of men near the gate to prevent a repetition of the last sally.
Archie now despatched two or three fleet footed runners through
the passage to find the king, and tell him that the besiegers were
making progress, and to pray him to come to his assistance. Two
days passed, and the breach was now fairly practicable, but the
moat, fifty feet wide, still barred the way to the besiegers. Archie
had noticed that for two or three days no water had come down from
above, and had no doubt that they had diverted the course of the
river. Upon the day after the breach was completed the besiegers
advanced in great force up the stream from below.
"They are going to try to cut the dam," Archie said to Sandy; "place
every man who can draw a bow on that side of the castle."
As the English approached a rain of arrows was poured into them,
but covering themselves with their shields and with large mantlets
formed of hurdles covered with hides they pressed forward to the
dam. Here those who had brought with them picks and mattocks set
to work upon the dam, the men with mantlets shielding them from
the storm of arrows, while numbers of archers opened fire upon the
defenders. Very many were killed by the Scottish arrows, but the
work went on. A gap was made through the dam. The water, as it rushed
through, aided the efforts of those at work; and after three hours'
labour and fighting the gap was so far deepened that the water in
the moat had fallen eight feet. Then, finding that this could now
be waded, the assailants desisted, and drew off to their camp.
A council was held that evening in the castle as to whether
the hold should be abandoned at once or whether one attack on the
breach should be withstood. It was finally determined that the
breach should be held. The steep sides of the moat, exposed by the
subsidence of the water, were slippery and difficult. The force in
the castle was amply sufficient at once to man the breach and to
furnish archers for the walls on either side, while in the event
of the worst, were the breach carried by the English, the defenders
might fall back to the central keep, and thence make their way
through the passage. Had it not been for the possibility of an
early arrival of the king to their relief all agreed that it would
be as well to evacuate the castle at once, as this in the end must
fall, and every life spent in its defence would thus be a useless
sacrifice. As, however, troops might at any moment appear, it was
determined to hold the castle until the last.
The next morning a party of knights in full defensive armour
came down to the edge of the moat to see whether passage could be
effected. They were not molested while making their examination,
as the Scottish arrows would only have dropped harmless off their
steel harness. Archie was on the walls.
"How like you the prospect, Sir Knights?" he called out merrily.
"I fear that the sludge and slime will sully your bright armour and
smirch your plumes, for it will be difficult to hold a footing on
those muddy banks."
"It were best for you to yield, Sir Archibald Forbes, without giving
us the trouble of making our way across your moat. You have made
a stout resistance, and have done enough for honour, and you must
see that sooner or later we must win our way in."
"Then I would rather it should be later," Archie replied. "I
may have done enough for honour, but it is not for honour that I
am fighting, but for Scotland. Your work is but begun yet, I can
assure you. We are far from being at the end of our resources yet.
It will be time enough to talk about surrendering when you have
won the breach and the outer walls."
The knights retired; and as some hours passed without the besiegers
seeing any preparation for an assault they judged that the report
carried back to camp was not an encouraging one. Large numbers of
men were, however, seen leaving the camp, and these toward sunset
came back staggering under immense loads of brushwood which they
had cut in the forest.
"They intend to fill up the moat," Archie said; "it is their wisest
He at once directed his men to make up large trusses of straw, over
which he poured considerable quantities of oil. Early the next
morning the English drew out of their camp, and advanced in martial
array. Each man carried a great faggot, and, covering themselves
with these as they came within bowshot, they marched down to the
moat. Each in turn threw in his faggot, and when he had done so
returned to the camp and brought back another. Rapidly the process
of filling up the moat opposite to the breach continued. The besiegers
kept up a rain of arrows and darts, and many of the English were
killed. But the work was continued without intermission until well
nigh across the moat a broad crossway was formed level with the
outer bank, but a narrow gap remained to be filled, and the English
leaders advanced to the front to prevent the Scots on the breach
rushing down to assault those placing the faggots.
Somewhat to the surprise of the English the defenders remained
stationary, contenting themselves with hurling great stones at their
busy enemy. Suddenly there was a movement. Archie and a party of
his best men dashed down the breach, and, climbing on the causeway,
for a moment drove the workers and their guards back. They were
followed by twenty men carrying great trusses of straw. These were
piled against the faggots forming the end of the causeway. Archie
and his band leapt back as a torch was applied to the straw. In a
moment the hot flames leapt up, causing the knights who had pressed
after the retreating Scots to fall back hastily. A shout of triumph
rose from the garrison and one of dismay from the besiegers.
Saturated with oil, the trusses burnt with fury, and the faggots
were soon alight. A fresh wind was blowing, and the flames crept
rapidly along the causeway. In a few minutes this was in a blaze
from end to end, and in half an hour nothing remained of the great
pile save charred ashes and the saturated faggots which had been
below the water in the moat, and which now floated upon it.
The besiegers had drawn off when they saw that the flames had
gained a fair hold of the causeway. The smoke had scarcely ceased
to rise when a great outcry arose from the English camp, and the
lookout from the top of the keep perceived a strong force marching
toward it. By the bustle and confusion which reigned in the camp
Archie doubted not that the newcomers were Scots. The garrison were
instantly called to arms. The gates were thrown open, and leaving
a small body only to hold the gates, he sallied out at the head of
his men and marched toward the English camp. At the approach of
the Scottish force the English leaders had marched out with their
men to oppose them. Bruce had been able to collect but three hundred
and fifty men, and the English, seeing how small was the number
advancing against them, prepared to receive them boldly. Scarcely
had the combat begun when Archie with his band entered the English
camp, which was almost deserted. They at once fired the tents, and
then advanced in a solid mass with level spears against the rear
of the English. These, dismayed at the destruction of their camp,
and at finding themselves attacked both front and rear, lost heart
and fell into confusion. Their leaders strove to rally them,
and dashed with their men-at-arms against the spearmen, but their
efforts to break through were in vain, and their defeat increased
the panic of the footmen. Archie's party broke a way through their
disordered line and joined the body commanded by the king, and the
whole rushed so fiercely upon the English that these broke and fled
in all directions, pursued by the triumphant Scots.
"I am but just in time I see, Sir Archie," Bruce said, pointing
to the breach in the wall; "a few hours more and methinks that I
should have been too late."
"We could have held out longer than that, sire," Archie replied.
"We have repulsed an attack this morning and burnt a causeway of
faggots upon which they attempted to cross the moat; still, I am
truly glad that you have arrived, and thank you with all my heart
for coming so speedily to my rescue, for sooner or later the hold
must have fallen; the great machines which they brought with them
from Stirling proved too strong for the wall."
"And how has the Lady Marjory borne her during the siege?" the king
"Right nobly," Archie replied; "ever in good spirits and showing a
brave face to the men; and one night when I made a sortie through
my secret passage, and fell upon the English camp from the other
side, having left the castle in her charge, she headed the garrison
and issuing out, recaptured the outworks, and destroyed the machines
"Bravely done," the king said, "and just what I should expect from
your wife. You did well to take my advice in that matter."
"We shall never agree there, sire, for as you know I followed my
own will and wed the bride I had fixed upon for myself."
"Well, well, Sir Archie, as we are both satisfied we will e'en let
it be; and now, I trust that you have still some supplies left,
for to tell you the truth I am hungry as well as weary, and my men
have marched fast and far."
"There is an abundance," Archie replied; "to last them all for a
month, and right willingly is it at their service."
The king remained a week at Aberfilly, his men aiding Archie's
retainers in repairing the gap in the dam and in rebuilding the
wall; and as five hundred men working willingly and well can effect
wonders, by the time Bruce rode away the castle was restored to
its former appearance. Archie marched on the following day, and
rejoined Douglas in Galloway.
Chapter XXII A Prisoner
After some consultation between the leaders, it was agreed to make
an attempt to capture the castle of Knockbawn. It was known to
possess a garrison of some sixty men only, and although strong,
Archie and Sir James believed that it could be captured by assault.
It was arranged that Archie should ride to reconnoitre it, and
taking two mounted retainers he started, the force remaining in the
forest some eight miles distant. The castle of Knockbawn stood on
a rocky promontory, jutting a hundred and fifty yards into the sea.
When he neared the neck of the point, which was but some twenty
yards wide, Archie bade his followers fall back a short distance.
"I will ride," he said, "close up to the castle walls. My armour
is good, and I care not for arrow or crossbow bolt. It were best
you fell back a little, for they may have horses and may sally out
in pursuit. I am well mounted and fear not being overtaken, but it
were best that you should have a good start."
Archie then rode forward toward the castle. Seeing a knight
approaching alone the garrison judged that he was friendly, and it
was not until it was seen that instead of approaching the drawbridge
he turned aside and rode to the edge of the fosse, that they
suspected that he was a foe. Running to the walls they opened fire
with arrows upon him, but by this time Archie had seen all that
he required. Across the promontory ran a sort of fissure, some ten
yards wide and as many deep. From the opposite edge of this the
wall rose abruptly. Here assault would be difficult, and it was
upon the gateway that an attack must be made. Several arrows had
struck his armour and glanced off, and Archie now turned and quietly
rode away, his horse being protected by mail like himself. Scarce
had he turned when he saw a sight which caused him for a moment
to draw rein. Coming at full gallop toward the promontory was a
strong body of English horse, flying the banner of Sir Ingram de
Umfraville. They were already nearer to the end of the neck than
he was. There was no mode of escape, and drawing his sword he
galloped at full speed to meet them. As he neared them Sir Ingram
himself, one of the doughtiest of Edward's knights, rode out with
levelled lance to meet him. At full gallop the knights charged
each other. Sir Ingram's spear was pointed at the bars of Archie's
helmet, but as the horses met each other Archie with a blow of his
sword cut off the head of the lance and dealt a tremendous backhanded
blow upon Sir Ingram's helmet as the latter passed him, striking
the knight forward on to his horse's neck; then without pausing a
moment he dashed into the midst of the English ranks.
The horsemen closed around him, and although he cut down several
with his sweeping blows he was unable to break his way through them.
Such a conflict could not last long. Archie received a blow from
behind which struck him from his horse. Regaining his feet he
continued the fight, but the blows rained thick upon him, and he
was soon struck senseless to the ground.
When he recovered he was in a room in the keep of the castle. Two
knights were sitting at a table near the couch on which he was lying.
"Ah!" exclaimed one, on seeing Archie open his eyes and move, "I
am glad to see your senses coming back to you, sir prisoner. Truly,
sir, I regret that so brave a knight should have fallen into my
hands, seeing that in this war we must needs send our prisoners
to King Edward, whose treatment of them is not, I must e'en own,
gentle; for indeed you fought like any paladin. I deemed not that
there was a knight in Scotland, save the Bruce himself, who could
have so borne himself; and never did I, Ingram de Umfraville, come
nearer to losing my seat than I did from that backhanded blow you
dealt me. My head rings with it still. My helmet will never be
fit to wear again, and as the leech said when plastering my head,
`had not my skull been of the thickest, you had assuredly cut
through it.' May I crave the name of so brave an antagonist?"
"I am Sir Archibald Forbes," Archie replied.
"By St. Jago!" the knight said, "but I am sorry for it, seeing that,
save Bruce himself, there is none in the Scottish ranks against
whom King Edward is so bitter. In the days of Wallace there was no
one whose name was more often on our lips than that of Sir Archibald
Forbes, and now, under Bruce, it is ever coming to the front. I had
thought to have asked Edward as a boon that I should have kept you
as my prisoner until exchanged for one on our side, but being Sir
Archibald Forbes I know that it were useless indeed; nevertheless,
sir knight, I will send to King Edward, begging him to look mercifully
upon your case, seeing how bravely and honourably you have fought."
"Thanks for your good offices, Sir Ingram," Archie replied, "but
I shall ask for no mercy for myself. I have never owed or paid him
allegiance, but, as a true Scot, have fought for my country against
a foreign enemy."
"But King Edward does not hold himself to be a foreign enemy," the
knight said, "seeing that Baliol, your king, with Comyn and all
your great nobles, did homage to him as Lord Paramount of Scotland."
"It were an easy way," Archie rejoined, "to gain a possession to
nominate a puppet from among the nobles already your vassals, and
then to get him to do homage. No, sir knight, neither Comyn nor
Baliol, nor any other of the Anglo-Norman nobles who hold estate
in Scotland, have a right to speak for her, or to barter away her
freedom. That is what Wallace and thousands of Scotchmen have fought
and died to protest against, and what Scotchmen will do until their
country is free."
"It is not a question for me to argue upon," Sir Ingram said
surlily. "King Edward bids me fight in Scotland, and as his knight
and vassal I put on my harness without question. But I own to
you that seeing I have fought beside him in Gascony, when he, as
a feudal vassal of the King of France, made war upon his lord, I
cannot see that the offence is an unpardonable one when you Scotchmen
do the same here. Concerning the lawfulness of his claim to be
your lord paramount, I own that I neither know nor care one jot.
However, sir, I regret much that you have fallen into my hands,
for to Carlisle, where the king has long been lying, as you have
doubtless heard, grievously ill, I must forthwith send you. I must
leave you here with the governor, for in half an hour I mount and
ride away with my troop. He will do his best to make your sojourn
here easy until such time as I may have an opportunity of sending
you by ship to Carlisle; and now farewell, sir," he said, giving
Archie his hand, "I regret that an unkind chance has thrown so
gallant a knight into my hands, and that my duty to the king forbids
me from letting you go free."
"Thanks, Sir Ingram," Archie replied. "I have ever heard of you
as a brave knight, and if this misfortune must fall upon me, would
sooner that I should have been captured by you than by one of less
fame and honour."
The governor now had a meal with some wine set before Archie, and
then left him alone.
"I am not at Carlisle yet," Archie said to himself. "Unless
I mistake, we shall have Sir James thundering at the gate before
morning. Cluny will assuredly have ridden off at full speed to carry
the news when he saw that I was cut off, and e'en now he will be
marching towards the castle." As he expected, Archie was roused
before morning by a tremendous outburst of noise. Heavy blows were
given, followed by a crash, which Archie judged to be the fall of
the drawbridge across the fosse. He guessed that some of Douglas's
men had crept forward noiselessly, had descended the fosse, and
managed to climb up to the gate, and had then suddenly attacked
with their axes the chains of the drawbridge.
A prodigious uproar raged in the castle. Orders were shouted, and
the garrison, aroused from their sleep, snatched up their arms
and hastened to the walls. Outside rose the war cry, "A Douglas! A
Douglas!" mingled with others of, "Glen Cairn to the rescue!" For
a few minutes all was confusion, then a light suddenly burst up
and grew every instant more and more bright.
"Douglas has piled faggots against the gates," Archie said to
himself. "Another quarter of an hour and the castle will be his."
Three or four minutes later the governor with six soldiers, two
of whom bore torches, entered the room. "You must come along at
once, sir knight," the governor said. "The attack is of the fiercest,
and I know not whether we shall make head against it, but at any
rate I must not risk your being recaptured, and must therefore
place you in a boat and send you off without delay to the castle
at Port Patrick."
It was in vain for Archie to think of resistance, he was unarmed
and helpless. Two of the soldiers laid hands on him and hurried
him along until they reached the lower chambers of the castle. The
governor unlocked a door, and with one of the torch bearers led
the way down some narrow steps. These were some fifty in number,
and then a level passage ran along for some distance. Another door
was opened, and the fresh breeze blew upon them as they issued
forth. They stood on some rocks at the foot of the promontory on
which the castle stood. A large boat lay close at hand, drawn to
the shore. Archie and the six soldiers entered her; four of the
latter took the oars, and the others seated themselves by their
prisoner, and then the boat rowed away, while the governor returned
to aid in the defence of the castle.
The boat was but a quarter of a mile away when on the night air
came the sound of a wild outburst of triumphant shouts which told
that the Scots had won their way into the castle. With muttered
curses the men bent to their oars and every minute took them further
away from Knockbawn.
Archie was bitterly disappointed. He had reckoned confidently on
the efforts of Douglas to deliver him, and the possibility of his
being sent off by sea had not entered his mind. It seemed to him
now that his fate was sealed. He had noticed on embarking that
there were no other boats lying at the foot of the promontory, and
pursuit would therefore be impossible.
After rowing eight hours the party reached Port Patrick, where Archie
was delivered by the soldiers to the governor with a message from
their commander saying that the prisoner, Sir Archibald Forbes,
was a captive of great importance, and was, by the orders of Sir
Ingram de Umfraville who had captured him, to be sent on to Carlisle
to the king when a ship should be going thither. A fortnight passed
before a vessel sailed. Archie was placed in irons and so securely
guarded in his dungeon that escape was altogether impossible. So
harsh was his confinement that he longed for the time when a vessel
would sail for Carlisle, even though he was sure that the same fate
which had attended so many of Scotland's best and bravest knights
awaited him there.
The winds were contrary, and the vessel was ten days upon the
voyage. Upon reaching Carlisle Archie was handed to the governor
of the castle, and the next morning was conducted to the presence
of the king himself. The aged monarch, in the last extremity of
sickness, lay upon a couch. Several of his nobles stood around him.
"So," he said as the prisoner was brought before him, "this is
Archibald Forbes, the one companion of the traitor Wallace who has
hitherto escaped my vengeance. So, young sir, you have ventured
to brave my anger and to think yourself capable of coping with the
Lion of England."
"I have done my utmost, sir king," Archie said firmly, "such as
it was, for the freedom of my country. No traitor am I, nor was my
leader Wallace. Nor he, nor I, ever took vow of allegiance to you,
maintaining ever that the kings of England had neither claim nor
right over Scotland. He has been murdered, foully and dishonourably,
as you will doubtless murder me, and as you have killed many nobler
knights and gentlemen; but others will take our places, and so the
fight will go on until Scotland is free."
"Scotland will never be free," the king said with angry vehemence.
"Rather than that, she shall cease to exist, and I will slay till
there is not one of Scottish blood, man, woman, or child, to bear
the name. Let him be taken to Berwick," he said; "there let him be
exposed for a week in a cage outside the castle, that the people
may see what sort of a man this is who matches himself against the
might of England. Then let him be hung, drawn, and quartered, his
head sent to London, and his limbs distributed between four Scotch
"I go, sir king," Archie said, as the attendants advanced to seize
him, "and at the end of the week I will meet you before the throne
of God, for you, methinks, will have gone thither before me, and
there will I tax you with all your crimes, with the slaughter of
tens of thousands of Scottish men, women, and children, with cities
destroyed and countries wasted, and with the murder in cold blood
of a score of noble knights whose sole offence was that they fought
for their native country."
With these words Archie turned and walked proudly from the king's
presence. An involuntary murmur of admiration at his fearless bearing
escaped from the knights and nobles assembled round the couch of
the dying monarch.
When, two days later, Archie entered the gates of Berwick Castle
the bells of the city were tolling, for a horseman had just ridden
in with the news that Edward had expired on the evening before,
being the 6th day of July, 1307, just at the moment when he was
on the point of starting with the great army he had assembled to
crush out the insurrection in Scotland.
So deep was his hate for the people who had dared to oppose his will
that when dying he called before him his eldest son, and in the
presence of his barons caused him to swear upon the saints that so
soon as he should be dead his body should be boiled in a cauldron
until the flesh should be separated from the bones, after which the
flesh should be committed to the earth, but the bones preserved,
and that, as often as the people of Scotland rebelled, the military
array of the kingdom should be summoned and the bones carried at
the head of the army into Scotland. His heart he directed should
be conveyed to and deposited in the Holy Land.
So died Edward I, a champion of the Holy Sepulchre, King of England,
Lord of Ireland, Duke of Aquitaine, conqueror of Wales, and would
be conqueror of Scotland. In many respects his reign was a great
and glorious one, for he was more than a great conqueror, he was,
to England, a wise and noble king; and taken altogether he was
perhaps the greatest of the Plantagenets.
Historians have striven to excuse and palliate his conduct toward
Scotland. They have glossed over his crimes and tried to explain
away the records of his deeds of savage atrocity, and to show that
his claims to that kingdom, which had not a shadow of foundation
save from the submission of her Anglo-Norman nobles, almost all of
whom were his own vassals and owned estates in England, were just
and righteous. Such is not the true function of history. Edward's
sole claim to Scotland was that he was determined to unite under his
rule England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, and he failed because
the people of Scotland, deserted as they were by all their natural
leaders, preferred death to such a slavery as that under which
Ireland and Wales helplessly groaned. His dying wishes were not
observed. His body was laid in rest in Westminster Abbey, and on
the tomb was inscribed, "Edward I the mallet of the Scots."
Chapter XXIII The Escape from Berwick
On entering the castle Archie was at once conducted to a sort of
cage which had been constructed for a previous prisoner. On the
outside of a small cell a framework of stout beams had been erected.
It was seven feet in height, six feet wide, and three feet deep.
The bars were four inches round, and six inches apart. There was
a door leading into the cell behind. This was closed in the daytime,
so that the prisoner remained in the cage in sight of passersby,
but at night the governor, who was a humane man, allowed the door
to remain unlocked, so that the prisoner could enter the inner cell
and lie down there.
The position of the cage was about twenty-five feet above the
moat. The moat itself was some forty feet wide, and a public path
ran along the other side, and people passing here had a full view
of the prisoner. There were still many of Scottish birth in the
town in spite of the efforts which Edward had made to convert it
into a complete English colony, and although the English were in
the majority, Archie was subject to but little insult or annoyance.
Although for the present in English possession, Berwick had always
been a Scotch town, and might yet again from the fortune of war
fall into Scottish hands. Therefore even those most hostile to them
felt that it would be prudent to restrain from any demonstrations
against the Scottish prisoners, since in the event of the city
again changing hands a bloody retaliation might be dealt them.
Occasionally a passing boy would shout out an epithet of contempt
or hatred or throw a stone at the prisoner, but such trifles were
unheeded by him. More often men or women passing would stop and
gaze up at him with pitying looks, and would go away wiping their
Archie, after the first careful examination of his cell, at once
abandoned any idea of escape from it. The massive bars would have
defied the strength of twenty men, and he had no instrument of any
sort with which he could cut them. There was, he felt, nothing
before him but death; and although he feared this little for
himself, he felt sad indeed as he thought of the grief of Marjory
and his mother.
The days passed slowly. Five had gone without an incident, and but
two remained, for he knew that there was no chance of any change
in the sentence which Edward had passed, even were his son more
disposed than he toward merciful measures to the Scots, which Archie
had no warrant for supposing. The new king's time would be too
closely engaged in the affairs entailed by his accession to rank,
the arrangement of his father's funeral, and the details of the
army advancing against Scotland, to give a thought to the prisoner
whose fate had been determined by his father.
Absorbed in his own thoughts Archie seldom looked across the moat,
and paid no heed to those who passed or who paused to look at him.
On the afternoon of the fifth day, however, his eye was caught by
two women who were gazing up at the cage. It was the immobility of
their attitude and the length of time which they continued to gaze
at him, which attracted his attention.
In a moment he started violently and almost gave a cry, for in
one of them he recognized his wife, Marjory. The instant that the
women saw that he had observed them they turned away and walked
carelessly and slowly along the road. Archie could hardly believe
that his eyesight had not deceived him. It seemed impossible that
Marjory, whom he deemed a hundred miles away, in his castle at
Aberfilly, should be here in the town of Berwick, and yet when he
thought it over he saw that it might well be so. There was indeed
ample time for her to have made the journey two or three times while
he had been lying in prison at Port Patrick awaiting a ship. She
would be sure, when the news reached her of his capture, that he
would be taken to Edward at Carlisle, and that he would be either
executed there or at Berwick. It was then by no means impossible,
strange and wondrous as it appeared to him, that Marjory should be
She was attired in the garment of a peasant woman of the better
class, such as the wife of a small crofter or farmer, and remembering
how she had saved his life before at Dunstaffnage, Archie felt that
she had come hither to try to rescue him.
Archie's heart beat with delight and his eyes filled with tears at
the devotion and courage of Marjory, and for the first time since
he had been hurried into the boat on the night of his capture a
feeling of hope entered his breast. Momentary as the glance had
been which he had obtained of the face of Marjory's companion,
Archie had perceived that it was in some way familiar to him. In
vain he recalled the features of the various servants at Aberfilly,
and those of the wives and daughters of the retainers of the estate;
he could not recognize the face of the woman accompanying Marjory
as belonging to any of them. His wife might, indeed, have brought
with her some one from the estates at Ayr whom she had known from
a child, but in that case Archie could not account for his knowledge
of her. This, however, did not occupy his mind many minutes; it
was assuredly one whom Marjory trusted, and that was sufficient
for him. Then his thoughts turned wholly to his wife.