This etext was produced by Martin Robb (MartinRobb@ieee.org) and Ted Robb (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In Freedom’s Cause
G. A. Henty
MY DEAR LADS,
There are few figures in history who have individually exercised so great an influence upon events as William Wallace and Robert Bruce. It was to the extraordinary personal courage, indomitable perseverance, and immense energy of these two men that Scotland owed her freedom from English domination. So surprising were the traditions of these feats performed by these heroes that it was at one time the fashion to treat them as belonging as purely to legend as the feats of St. George or King Arthur. Careful investigation, however, has shown that so far from this being the case, almost every deed reported to have been performed by them is verified by contemporary historians. Sir William Wallace had the especial bad fortune of having come down to us principally by the writings of his bitter enemies, and even modern historians, who should have taken a fairer view of his life, repeated the cry of the old English writers that he was a bloodthirsty robber. Mr. W. Burns, however, in his masterly and exhaustive work, The Scottish War of Independence, has torn these calumnies to shreds, and has displayed Wallace as he was, a high minded and noble patriot. While consulting other writers, especially those who wrote at the time of or but shortly after the events they record, I have for the most part followed Burns in all the historical portions of the narrative. Throughout the story, therefore, wherein it at all relates to Wallace, Bruce, and the other historical characters, the circumstances and events can be relied upon as strictly accurate, save only in the earlier events of the career of Wallace, of which the details that have come down to us are somewhat conflicting, although the main features are now settled past question.
Yours sincerely, G.A. HENTY.
Chapter I GLEN CAIRN
The village of Glen Cairn was situated in a valley in the broken country lying to the west of the Pentland Hills, some fifteen miles north of the town of Lanark, and the country around it was wild and picturesque. The villagers for the most part knew little of the world beyond their own valley, although a few had occasionally paid visits to Glasgow, which lay as far to the west as Lanark was distant to the south. On a spur jutting out from the side of the hill stood Glen Cairn Castle, whose master the villagers had for generations regarded as their lord.
The glory of the little fortalice had now departed. Sir William Forbes had been killed on his own hearthstone, and the castle had been sacked in a raid by the Kerrs, whose hold lay to the southwest, and who had long been at feud with the Forbeses. The royal power was feeble, and the Kerrs had many friends, and were accordingly granted the lands they had seized; only it was specified that Dame Forbes, the widow of Sir William, should be allowed to reside in the fortalice free from all let or hindrance, so long as she meddled not, nor sought to stir up enmity among the late vassals of her lord against their new masters.
The castle, although a small one, was strongly situated. The spur of the hill ran some 200 yards into the valley, rising sharply some 30 or 40 feet above it. The little river which meandered down the valley swept completely round the foot of the spur, forming a natural moat to it, and had in some time past been dammed back, so that, whereas in other parts it ran brightly over a pebbly bottom, here it was deep and still. The fortalice itself stood at the extremity of the spur, and a strong wall with a fortified gateway extended across the other end of the neck, touching the water on both sides. From the gateway extended two walls inclosing a road straight to the gateway of the hold itself, and between these walls and the water every level foot of ground was cultivated; this garden was now the sole remains of the lands of the Forbeses.
It was a narrow patrimony for Archie, the only son of Dame Forbes, and his lady mother had hard work to keep up a respectable state, and to make ends meet. Sandy Grahame, who had fought under her husband’s banner and was now her sole retainer, made the most of the garden patches. Here he grew vegetables on the best bits of ground and oats on the remainder; these, crushed between flat stones, furnished a coarse bread. From the stream an abundance of fish could always be obtained, and the traps and nets therefore furnished a meal when all else failed. In the stream, too, swam a score and more of ducks, while as many chickens walked about the castle yard, or scratched for insects among the vegetables. A dozen goats browsed on the hillside, for this was common ground to the village, and Dame Forbes had not therefore to ask for leave from her enemies, the Kerrs. The goats furnished milk and cheese, which was deftly made by Elspie, Sandy’s wife, who did all the work indoors, as her husband did without. Meat they seldom touched. Occasionally the resources of the hold were eked out by the present of a little hill sheep, or a joint of prime meat, from one or other of her old vassals, for these, in spite of the mastership of the Kerrs, still at heart regarded Dame Mary Forbes as their lawful mistress, and her son Archie as their future chief. Dame Mary Forbes was careful in no way to encourage this feeling, for she feared above all things to draw the attention of the Kerrs to her son. She was sure that did Sir John Kerr entertain but a suspicion that trouble might ever come from the rivalry of this boy, he would not hesitate a moment in encompassing his death; for Sir John was a rough and violent man who was known to hesitate at nothing which might lead to his aggrandizement. Therefore she seldom moved beyond the outer wall of the hold, except to go down to visit the sick in the village. She herself had been a Seaton, and had been educated at the nunnery of Dunfermline, and she now taught Archie to read and write, accomplishments by no means common even among the better class in those days. Archie loved not books; but as it pleased his mother, and time often hung heavy on his hands, he did not mind devoting two or three hours a day to the tasks she set him. At other times he fished in the stream, wandered over the hills, and brought in the herbs from which Dame Forbes distilled the potions which she distributed to the villagers when sick.
Often he joined the lads of the village in their games. They all regarded him as their leader; but his mother had pressed upon him over and over again that on no account was he to assume any superiority over the others, but to treat them strictly as equals. Doubtless the Kerrs would from time to time have news of what was doing in Glen Cairn; and while they would be content to see him joining in the sports of the village lads, with seemingly no wish beyond that station, they would at once resent it did they see any sign on his part of his regarding himself as a chief among the others.
No inconsiderable portion of Archie’s time was occupied in acquiring the use of arms from Sandy Grahame. His mother, quiet and seemingly resigned as she was, yet burned with the ambition that he should some day avenge his father’s death, and win back his father’s lands. She said little to him of her hopes; but she roused his spirit by telling him stories of the brave deeds of the Forbeses and Seatons, and she encouraged him from his childhood to practise in arms with Sandy Grahame.
In this respect, indeed, Archie needed no stimulant. From Sandy even more than from his mother he had heard of his brave father’s deeds in arms; and although, from the way in which she repressed any such utterances, he said but little to his mother, he was resolved as much as she could wish him to be, that he would some day win back his patrimony, and avenge his father upon his slayers.
Consequently, upon every opportunity when Sandy Grahame could spare time from his multifarious work, Archie practised with him, with sword and pike. At first he had but a wooden sword. Then, as his limbs grew stronger, he practised with a blunted sword; and now at the age of fifteen Sandy Grahame had as much as he could do to hold his own with his pupil.
At the time the story opens, in the springtime of the year 1293, he was playing at ball with some of the village lads on the green, when a party of horsemen was seen approaching.
At their head rode two men perhaps forty years old, while a lad of some eighteen years of age rode beside them. In one of the elder men Archie recognized Sir John Kerr. The lad beside him was his son Allan. The other leader was Sir John Hazelrig, governor of Lanark; behind them rode a troop of armed men, twenty in number. Some of the lads would have ceased from their play; but Archie exclaimed:
“Heed them not; make as if you did not notice them. You need not be in such a hurry to vail your bonnets to the Kerr.”
“Look at the young dogs,” Sir John Kerr said to his companion. “They know that their chief is passing, and yet they pretend that they see us not.”
“It would do them good,” his son exclaimed, “did you give your troopers orders to tie them all up and give them a taste of their stirrup leathers.”
“It would not be worth while, Allan,” his father said. “They will all make stout men-at-arms some day, and will have to fight under my banner. I care as little as any man what my vassals think of me, seeing that whatsoever they think they have to do mine orders. But it needs not to set them against one needlessly; so let the varlets go on with their play undisturbed.”
That evening Archie said to his mother, “How is it, mother, that the English knight whom I today saw ride past with the Kerr is governor of our Scottish town of Lanark?”
“You may well wonder, Archie, for there are many in Scotland of older years than you who marvel that Scotsmen, who have always been free, should tolerate so strange a thing. It is a long story, and a tangled one; but tomorrow morning I will draw out for you a genealogy of the various claimants to the Scottish throne, and you will see how the thing has come about, and under what pretence Edward of England has planted his garrisons in this free Scotland of ours.”
The next morning Archie did not forget to remind his mother of her promise.
“You must know,” she began, “that our good King Alexander had three children — David, who died when a boy; Alexander, who married a daughter of the Count of Flanders, and died childless; and a daughter, Margaret, who married Eric, the young King of Norway. Three years ago the Queen of Norway died, leaving an only daughter, also named Margaret, who was called among us the `Maid of Norway,’ and who, at her mother’s death, became heir presumptive to the throne, and as such was recognized by an assembly of the estates at Scone. But we all hoped that the king would have male heirs, for early last year, while still in the prime of life, he married Joleta, daughter of the Count of Drew. Unhappily, on the 19th of March, he attended a council in the castle of Edinburgh, and on his way back to his wife at Kinghorn, on a stormy night, he fell over a precipice and was killed.
“The hopes of the country now rested on the `Maid of Norway,’ who alone stood between the throne and a number of claimants, most of whom would be prepared to support their claims by arms, and thus bring unnumbered woes upon Scotland. Most unhappily for the country, the maid died on her voyage to Scotland, and the succession therefore became open.
“You will see on this chart, which I have drawn out, the lines by which the principal competitors — for there were nigh upon a score of them — claimed the throne.
“Before the death of the maid, King Edward had proposed a marriage between her and his young son, and his ambassadors met the Scottish commissioners at Brigham, near Kelso, and on the 18th of July, 1290, the treaty was concluded. It contained, besides the provisions of the marriage, clauses for the personal freedom of Margaret should she survive her husband; for the reversion of the crown failing her issue; for protection of the rights, laws, and liberties of Scotland; the freedom of the church; the privileges of crown vassals; the independence of the courts; the preservation of all charters and natural muniments; and the holding of parliaments only within Scotland; and specially provided that no vassal should be compelled to go forth of Scotland for the purpose of performing homage or fealty; and that no native of Scotland should for any cause whatever be compelled to answer, for any breach of covenant or from crime committed, out of the kingdom.
“Thus you see, my boy, that King Edward at this time fully recognized the perfect independence of Scotland, and raised no claim to any suzerainty over it. Indeed, by Article I it was stipulated that the rights, laws, liberties, and customs of Scotland should remain for ever entire and inviolable throughout the whole realm and its marches; and by Article V that the Kingdom of Scotland shall remain separate and divided from England, free in itself, and without subjection, according to its right boundaries and marches, as heretofore.
“King Edward, however, artfully inserted a salvo, `saving the rights of the King of England and of all others which before the date of this treaty belong to him or any of them in the marches or elsewhere.’ The Scottish lords raised no objection to the insertion of this salvo, seeing that it was of general purport, and that Edward possessed no rights in Scotland, nor had any ever been asserted by his predecessors — Scotland being a kingdom in itself equal to its neighbour — and that neither William the Norman nor any of his successors attempted to set forward any claims to authority beyond the Border.
“No sooner was the treaty signed than Edward, without warrant or excuse, appointed Anthony Beck, the warlike Bishop of Durham, Lieutenant of Scotland, in the name of the yet unmarried pair; and finding that this was not resented, he demanded that all the places of strength in the kingdom should be delivered to him. This demand was not, however, complied with, and the matter was still pending when the Maid of Norway died. The three principal competitors — Bruce, Baliol, and Comyn — and their friends, at once began to arm; but William Fraser, Bishop of St. Andrews, a friend of Baliol, wrote to King Edward suggesting that he should act as arbitrator, and more than hinting that if he chose Baliol he would find him submissive in all things to his wishes. Edward jumped at the proposal, and thereupon issued summonses to the barons of the northern counties to meet him at Norham on the 3d of June; and a mandate was issued to the sheriffs of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, York, and Lancaster, to assemble the feudal array at the same rendezvous.
“Now, you know, my son, that, owing to the marriages between royal families of England and Scotland, there has been a close connection between the countries. Many Scotch barons have married English heiresses, and hold lands in both countries, while Scottish maidens have married English knights. Thus it happens that a great number of the Scotch nobility are as much Englishmen as Scotchmen, and are vassals to England for lands held there. Four of the competitors, John Baliol, Robert Bruce, John Comyn, and William Ross, are all barons of England as well as of Scotland, and their lands lying in the north they were, of course, included in the invitation. In May, Edward issued an invitation to the Bishops of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and other Scotch nobles to come to Norham, remain there, and return, specially saying that their presence there was not to be regarded as a custom through which the laws of Scotland might in any future time be prejudiced. Hither then came the whole power of the north of England, and many of the Scotch nobles.
“When the court opened, Roger Brabazon, the king’s justiciary, delivered an address, in which he stated that Edward, as lord paramount of Scotland, had come there to administer justice between the competitors for the crown, and concluded with the request that all present should acknowledge his claim as lord paramount. The Scottish nobles present, with the exception of those who were privy to Edward’s designs, were filled with astonishment and dismay at this pretension, and declared their ignorance of any claim of superiority of the King of England over Scotland. The king, in a passion, exclaimed:
“‘By holy Edward, whose crown I wear, I will vindicate my just rights, or perish in the attempt.’
“However, he saw that nothing could be done on the instant, and adjourned the meeting for three weeks, at the end of which time the prelates, nobles, and community of Scotland were invited to bring forward whatever they could in opposition to his claim to supremacy.
“At the time fixed the Scotch nobles again met, but this time on the Scottish side of the Border, for Edward had gathered together the whole of the force of the northern counties.
“Besides the four claimants, whose names I have told you, were Sir John Hastings, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, William de Vesci, Robert de Pinkeny, Nicholas de Soulis, Patrick Galythly, Roger de Mandeville, Florence, Count of Holland, and Eric, King of Norway. With the exception of Eric, the Count of Holland, Dunbar, and Galythly, all of these were of Norman extraction, and held possessions in England. When the meeting was opened the prelates and nobles present advanced nothing to disprove Edward’s claim to supremacy. The representatives of the commons, however, did show reason against the claim, for which, indeed, my son, as every man in Scotland knows, there was not a shadow of foundation.
“The king’s chancellor declared that there was nothing in these objections to Edward’s claim, and therefore he resolved, as lord paramount, to determine the question of succession. The various competitors were asked whether they acknowledged Edward as lord paramount, and were willing to receive his judgment as such; and the whole of these wretched traitors proceeded to barter their country for their hopes of a crown, acknowledged Edward as lord paramount, and left the judgment in his hands.
“Bruce and Baliol received handsome presents for thus tamely yielding the rights of Scotland. All present at once agreed that the castles and strongholds of Scotland should be surrendered into the hands of English commanders and garrisons. This was immediately done; and thus it is, Archie, that you see an English officer lording it over the Scotch town of Lanark.
“Then every Scotchman was called upon to do homage to the English king as his lord paramount, and all who refused to do so were seized and arrested. Finally, on the 17th of November last, 1292 — the date will long be remembered in Scotland — Edward’s judgment was given at Berwick, and by it John Baliol was declared King of Scotland.
“Thus for eighteen months Scotland was kept in doubt; and this was done, no doubt, to enable the English to rivet their yoke upon our shoulders, and to intimidate and coerce all who might oppose it.”
“There were some that did oppose it, mother, were there not? — some true Scotchmen who refused to own the supremacy of the King of England?”
“Very few, Archie. One Sir Malcolm Wallace, a knight of but small estate, refused to do so, and was, together with his eldest son, slain in an encounter with an English detachment under a leader named Fenwick at Loudon Hill.”
“And was he the father of that William Wallace of whom the talk was lately that he had slain young Selbye, son of the English governor of Dundee?”
“The same, Archie.”
“Men say, mother, that although but eighteen years of age he is of great stature and strength, of very handsome presence, and courteous and gentle; and that he was going quietly through the streets when insulted by young Selbye, and that he and his companions being set upon by the English soldiers, slew several and made their escape.”
“So they say, Archie. He appears from all description of him to be a remarkable young man, and I trust that he will escape the vengeance of the English, and that some day he may again strike some blows for our poor Scotland, which, though nominally under the rule of Baliol, is now but a province of England.”
“But surely, mother, Scotchmen will never remain in such a state of shameful servitude!”
“I trust not, my son; but I fear that it will be long before we shake off the English yoke. Our nobles are for the most part of Norman blood; very many are barons of England; and so great are the jealousies among them that no general effort against England will be possible. No, if Scotland is ever to be freed, it will be by a mighty rising of the common people, and even then the struggle between the commons of Scotland and the whole force of England aided by the feudal power of all the great Scotch nobles, would be well nigh hopeless.”
This conversation sank deeply into Archie’s mind; day and night he thought of nothing but the lost freedom of Scotland, and vowed that even the hope of regaining his father’s lands should be secondary to that of freeing his country. All sorts of wild dreams did the boy turn over in his mind; he was no longer gay and light hearted, but walked about moody and thoughtful. He redoubled his assiduity in the practice of arms; and sometimes when fighting with Sandy, he would think that he had an English man-at-arms before him, and would strike so hotly and fiercely that Sandy had the greatest difficulty in parrying his blows, and was forced to shout lustily to recall him from the clouds. He no longer played at ball with the village lads; but, taking the elder of them aside, he swore them to secrecy, and then formed them into a band, which he called the Scottish Avengers. With them he would retire into valleys far away from the village, where none would mark what they were doing, and there they practised with club and stake instead of broadsword and pike, defended narrow passes against an imaginary enemy, and, divided into two parties, did battle with each other.
The lads entered into the new diversion with spirit. Among the lower class throughout Scotland the feeling of indignation at the manner in which their nobles had sold their country to England was deep and passionate. They knew the woes which English domination had brought upon Wales and Ireland; and though as yet without a leader, and at present hopeless of a successful rising, every true Scotchman was looking forward to the time when an attempt might be made to throw off the English yoke.
Therefore the lads of Glen Cairn entered heart and soul into the projects of their “young chief,” for so they regarded Archie, and strove their best to acquire some of the knowledge of the use of sword and pike which he possessed. The younger lads were not permitted to know what was going on — none younger than Archie himself being admitted into the band, while some of the elders were youths approaching man’s estate. Even to his mother Archie did not breathe a word of what he was doing, for he feared that she might forbid his proceedings. The good lady was often surprised at the cuts and bruises with which he returned home; but he always turned off her questions by muttering something about rough play or a heavy fall, and so for some months the existence of the Scottish Avengers remained unsuspected.
Chapter II Leaving Home
One day when “the Avengers” were engaged in mimic battle in a glen some two miles from the village they were startled with a loud shout of “How now, what is this uproar?” Bows were lowered and hedge stakes dropped; on the hillside stood Red Roy, the henchman of Sir John Kerr, with another of the retainers. They had been crossing the hills, and had been attracted by the sound of shouting. All the lads were aware of the necessity for Archie’s avoiding the notice of the Kerrs, and Andrew Macpherson, one of the eldest of the lads, at once stepped forward: “We are playing,” he said, “at fighting Picts against Scots.”
This was the case, for the English were so hated that Archie had found that none would even in sport take that name, and the sides were accordingly dubbed Scots and Picts, the latter title not being so repugnant, and the companies changing sides each day.
“It looks as if you were fighting in earnest,” Roy said grimly, “for the blood is streaming down your face.”
“Oh, we don’t mind a hard knock now and again,” Andrew said carelessly. “I suppose, one of these days, we shall have to go out under Sir John’s banner, and the more hard knocks we have now, the less we shall care for them then.”
“That is so,” Roy said; “and some of you will soon be able to handle arms in earnest. Who are your leaders?” he asked sharply, as his eye fixed on Archie, who had seated himself carelessly upon a rock at some little distance.
“William Orr generally heads one side, and I the other.”
“And what does that young Forbes do?” Red Roy asked.
“Well, he generally looks on,” Andrew replied in a confidential tone; “he is not much good with the bow, and his lady mother does not like it if he goes home with a crack across the face, and I don’t think he likes it himself; he is but a poor creature when it comes to a tussle.”
“And it is well for him that he is,” Red Roy muttered to himself; “for if he had been likely to turn out a lad of spirit, Sir John would have said the word to me before now; but, seeing what he is, he may as well be left alone for the present. He will never cause trouble.” So saying, Red Roy strolled away with his companion, and left the lads to continue their mimic fight.
News travelled slowly to Glen Cairn; indeed, it was only when a travelling chapman or pedlar passed through, or when one of the villagers went over to Lanark or Glasgow, carrying the fowls and other produce of the community to market, that the news came from without.
Baliol was not long before he discovered that his monarchy was but a nominal one. The first quarrel which arose between him and his imperious master was concerning the action of the courts. King Edward directed that there should be an appeal to the courts at Westminster from all judgments in the Scottish courts. Baliol protested that it was specifically agreed by the Treaty of Brigham that no Scotchman was liable to be called upon to plead outside the kingdom; but Edward openly declared, “Notwithstanding any concessions made before Baliol became king, he considered himself at liberty to judge in any case brought before him from Scotland, and would, if necessary, summon the King of Scots himself to appear in his presence.” He then compelled Baliol formally to renounce and cancel not only the Treaty of Brigham, but every stipulation of the kind “known to exist, or which might be thereafter discovered.” Another appeal followed, and Baliol was cited to appear personally, but refused; he was thereupon declared contumacious by the English parliament, and a resolution was passed that three of the principal towns of Scotland should be “seized,” until he gave satisfaction. All this was a manifest usurpation, even allowing Edward’s claims to supremacy to be well founded.
At this moment Edward became involved in a quarrel with his own lord superior Phillip, king of France, by whom he was in turned summoned to appear under the pain of contumacy. Edward met this demand by a renunciation of allegiance to Phillip and a declaration of war, and called upon Baliol for aid as his vassal; but Baliol was also a vassal of the French king, and had estates in France liable to seizure. He therefore hesitated. Edward further ordered him to lay an embargo upon all vessels in the ports of Scotland, and required the attendance of many of the Scottish barons in his expedition to France. Finding his orders disobeyed, on the 16th of October Edward issued a writ to the sheriff of Northampton, “to seize all lands, goods, and chattels of John Baliol and other Scots.”
The Scotch held a parliament at Scone. All Englishmen holding office were summarily dismissed. A committee of the estates was appointed to act as guardian of the kingdom, and Baliol himself was deprived of all active power; but an instrument was prepared in his name, reciting the injuries that he and his subjects had sustained at the hands of the English king, and renouncing all further allegiance. Following this up, a league was concluded, offensive and defensive, between the French king and Scotland, represented by the prelates, nobles, and community. Edward Baliol, the king’s son, was contracted to marry the French king’s niece. Phillip bound himself to assist Scotland against any invasion of England, and the Scotch agreed to cross the Border in case Edward invaded France.
In making this alliance the Scots took the only step possible; for they had no choice between fighting England with France as their ally, or fighting France as the subjects of King Edward. The contest which was approaching seemed all but hopeless. The population of England was six times as large as that of Scotland, and Edward could draw from Ireland and Wales great numbers of troops. The English were trained to war by constant fighting in France, Ireland, and Wales; while the Scots had, for a very long period, enjoyed a profound peace, and were for the most part wholly ignorant of warfare.
Edward at once prepared to invade Scotland; in January he seized the lands owned by Comyn in Northumberland and sold them, directing the money to be applied to the raising and maintenance of 1000 men-at-arms and 60,000 foot soldiers, and in February issued a writ for the preparation of a fleet of 100 vessels.
On the 25th of March he crossed the Tweed with 5000 horse and 30,000 foot. The Scotch leaders were, of course, aware of the gathering storm, and, collecting their forces, attempted a diversion by crossing the Border to the west and making a raid into Cumberland. King Edward, however, marched north and besieged Berwick, the richest and most flourishing of the towns of Scotland. With the exception of the castle, it was weakly fortified. The attack was commenced by the fleet, who were, however, repulsed and driven off. A land assault, led by the king in person, was then made; the walls were captured, and the town completely sacked. The inhabitants were butchered without distinction of age, sex, or condition, and even those who fled to the churches were slain within the sanctuary. Contemporary accounts differ as to the numbers who perished on this occasion. Langtoff says 4000; Hemingford, 8000; Knighton, another English writer, says 17,000; and Matthew of Westminster, 60,000. Whichever of these writers is correct, it is certain that almost the whole of the men, women, and children of the largest and most populous Scottish town were butchered by the orders of the English king, who issued direct orders that none should be spared. From this terrible visitation Berwick, which was before called the Alexandria of the West, never recovered. The castle, which was held by Sir William Douglas, surrendered immediately; and Sir William, having sworn fealty to the English king, was permitted to depart.
The English army now marched north. Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, was with King Edward; but his wife, a noble and patriotic woman, surrendered the castle to the Scots. The Earl of Surrey, with a powerful army, sat down before it. The Scotch nobles and people marched in great numbers, but with little order and discipline, to raise the siege. They were met by Surrey, whose force, inured to arms, easily routed the Scotch gathering, no fewer than 10,000 being killed in the conflict and retreat. The English army was joined by 15,000 Welsh and 30,000 from Ireland, and marched through Scotland, the castles and towns opening their gates to Edward as he came, and the nobles, headed by James the Stewart, coming in and doing homage to him. Baliol was forced to appear in the churchyard of Strath-Cathro, near Montrose, arrayed in regal robes, and to resign his kingdom to the Bishop of Durham as Edward’s representative, and to repeat the act a few days afterwards at Brechin in presence of the king himself. He was then, with his son, sent a prisoner to London, where they were confined in the Tower for several years. From Brechin Edward marched through the whole of Scotland, visiting all the principal towns. He had now dropped the title of Lord Paramount of Scotland, the country being considered as virtually part of England. Garrisons were placed in every stronghold in the country, and many new castles were raised to dominate the people. The public documents were all carried away to England, the great seal broken in pieces, and the stone of Scone – upon which, for five hundred years, every Scotch monarch had been crowned — was carried away to Westminster, where it has ever since formed the seat of the thrones upon which English monarchs have been crowned.
The tide of war had not passed near Glen Cairn; but the excitement, as from time to time the news came of stirring events, was very great. The tidings of the massacre of Berwick filled all with consternation and grief. Some of the men quitted their homes and fought at Dunbar, and fully half of these never returned; but great as was the humiliation and grief at the reverses which had befallen the Scotch arms, the feeling was even deeper and more bitter at the readiness with which the whole of the Scotch nobles flocked in to make their peace with King Edward.
It seemed so incredible that Scotland, which had so long successfully resisted all invaders, should now tamely yield without a struggle, that the people could scarce believe it possible that their boasted freedom was gone, that the kingdom of Scotland was no more, and the country become a mere portion of England. Thus, while the nobles with their Norman blood and connections accepted the new state of things contentedly enough, well satisfied to have retained rank and land, a deep and sullen discontent reigned among the people; they had been betrayed rather than conquered, and were determined that some day there should be an uprising, and that Scotland would make a great effort yet for freedom. But for this a leader was needed, and until such a one appeared the people rested quiet and bided their time.
From time to time there came to Glen Cairn tales of the doings of that William Wallace who had, when the English first garrisoned the Scottish castles, while Edward was choosing between the competitors for her throne, killed young Selbye at Dundee, and had been outlawed for the deed. After that he went and resided with his uncle, Sir Ronald Crawford, and then with another uncle, Sir Richard Wallace of Riccarton. Here he gathered a party of young men, eager spirits like himself, and swore perpetual hostility to the English.
One day Wallace was fishing in the Irvine when Earl Percy, the governor of Ayr, rode past with a numerous train. Five of them remained behind and asked Wallace for the fish he had taken. He replied that they were welcome to half of them. Not satisfied with this, they seized the basket and prepared to carry it off. Wallace resisted, and one of them drew his sword. Wallace seized the staff of his net and struck his opponent’s sword from his hand; this he snatched up and stood on guard, while the other four rushed upon him. Wallace smote the first so terrible a blow that his head was cloven from skull to collarbone; with the next blow he severed the right arm of another, and then disabled a third. The other two fled, and overtaking the earl, called on him for help; “for,” they said, “three of our number who stayed behind with us to take some fish from the Scot who was fishing are killed or disabled.”
“How many were your assailants?” asked the earl.
“But the man himself,” they answered; “a desperate fellow whom we could not withstand.”
“I have a brave company of followers!” the earl said with scorn. “You allow one Scot to overmatch five of you! I shall not return to seek for your adversary; for were I to find him I should respect him too much to do him harm.”
Fearing that after this adventure he could no longer remain in safety with his uncle, Wallace left him and took up his abode in Lag Lane Wood, where his friends joining him, they lived a wild life together, hunting game and making many expeditions through the country. On one occasion he entered Ayr in disguise; in the middle of a crowd he saw some English soldiers, who were boasting that they were superior to the Scots in strength and feats of arms. One of them, a strong fellow, was declaring that he could lift a greater weight than any two Scots. He carried a pole, with which he offered, for a groat, to let any Scotchman strike him on the back as hard as he pleased, saying that no Scotchman could strike hard enough to hurt him.
Wallace offered him three groats for a blow. The soldier eagerly accepted the money, and Wallace struck him so mighty a blow that his back was broken and he fell dead on the ground. His comrades drew their swords and rushed at Wallace, who slew two with the pole, and when it broke drew the long sword which was hidden in his garments, and cut his way through them.
On another occasion he again had a fracas with the English in Ayr, and after killing many was taken prisoner. Earl Percy was away, and his lieutenant did not venture to execute him until his return. A messenger was sent to the Earl, but returned with strict orders that nothing should be done to the prisoner until he came back. The bad diet and foul air of the dungeon suited him so ill, after his free life in the woods, that he fell ill, and was reduced to so weak a state that he lay like one dead — the jailer indeed thought that he was so, and he was carried out to be cast into the prison burial ground, when a woman, who had been his nurse, begged his body. She had it carried to her house, and then discovered that life yet remained, and by great care and good nursing succeeded in restoring him. In order to prevent suspicion that he was still alive a fictitious funeral was performed. On recovering, Wallace had other frays with the English, all of which greatly increased his reputation throughout that part of the country, so that more adherents came to him, and his band began to be formidable. He gradually introduced an organization among those who were found to be friendly to the cause, and by bugle notes taken up and repeated from spot to spot orders could be despatched over a wide extent of country, by which the members of his band knew whether to assemble or disperse, to prepare to attack an enemy, or to retire to their fastnesses.
The first enterprise of real importance performed by the band was an attack by Wallace and fifty of his associates on a party of soldiers, 200 strong, conveying provisions from Carlisle to the garrison of Ayr. They were under the command of John Fenwick, the same officer who had been at the head of the troop by which Wallace’s father had been killed. Fenwick left twenty of his men to defend the wagons, and with the rest rode forward against the Scots. A stone wall checked their progress, and the Scotch, taking advantage of the momentary confusion, made a furious charge upon them with their spears, cutting their way into the midst of them and making a great slaughter of men and horses. The English rode round and round them, but the Scots, defending themselves with spear and sword, stood so staunchly together that the English could not break through.
The battle was long and desperate, but Wallace killed Fenwick with his own hand, and after losing nigh a hundred of their number the English fled in confusion. The whole convoy fell into the hands of the victors, who became possessed of several wagons, 200 carriage horses, flour, wine, and other stores in great abundance; with these they retired into the forest of Clydesdale.
The fame of this exploit greatly increased the number of Wallace’s followers. So formidable did the gathering become that convoys by land to Ayr were entirely interrupted, and Earl Percy held a council of the nobility at Glasgow, and consulted them as to what had best be done. Finally, Sir Ronald Crawford was summoned and told that unless he induced his nephew to desist from hostilities they should hold him responsible and waste his lands. Sir Ronald visited the band in Clydesdale forest, and rather than harm should come upon him, Wallace and his friends agreed to a truce for two months. Their plunder was stowed away in places of safety, and a portion of the band being left to guard it the rest dispersed to their homes.
Wallace returned to his uncle’s, but was unable long to remain inactive, and taking fifteen followers he went with them in disguise to Ayr. Wallace, as usual, was not long before he got into a quarrel. An English fencing master, armed with sword and buckler, was in an open place in the city, challenging any one to encounter him. Several Scots tried their fortune and were defeated, and then seeing Wallace towering above the crowd he challenged him. Wallace at once accepted, and after guarding himself for some time, with a mighty sweep of his sword cleft through buckler, arm, headpiece, and skull. The English soldiers around at once attacked him; his friends rallied round him, and after hard fighting they made their way to the spot where they had left their horses and rode to Lag Lane Wood.
When Earl Percy heard that Wallace had been the leader in this fray, and found on inquiry that he had slain the sword player in fair fight after having been challenged by him, he refused to regard him as having broken the truce, for he said the soldiers had done wrong in attacking him. Earl Percy was himself a most gallant soldier, and the extraordinary personal prowess of Wallace excited in him the warmest admiration, and he would fain, if it had been possible, have attached him to the service of England.
As soon as the truce was over Wallace again attacked the English. For a time he abode with the Earl of Lennox, who was one of the few who had refused to take the oath of allegiance, and having recruited his force, he stormed the stronghold called the Peel of Gargunnock, near Stirling. Then he entered Perth, leaving his followers in Methven Wood, and hearing that an English reinforcement was upon the march, formed an ambush, fell upon them, and defeated them; and pressing hotly upon them entered so close on their heels into Kincleven Castle, that the garrison had no time to close the gate, and the place was captured. Great stores and booty were found here; these were carried to the woods, and the castle was burned to the ground, as that of Gargunnock had been, as Wallace’s force was too small to enable him to hold these strongholds. Indignant at this enterprise so close to their walls the English moved out the whole garrison, 1000 strong, against Wallace, who had with him but fifty men in all. After a desperate defence, in which Sir John Butler and Sir William de Loraine, the two officers in command, were killed by Wallace himself, the latter succeeded in drawing off his men; 120 of the English were killed in the struggle, of whom more than twenty are said to have fallen at the hands of Wallace alone. Many other similar deeds did Wallace perform; his fame grew more and more, as did the feeling among the Scotch peasantry that in him they had found their champion and leader.
Archie eagerly drank in the tale of Wallace’s exploits, and his soul was fired by the desire to follow so valiant a leader. He was now sixteen, his frame was set and vigorous, and exercise and constant practice with arms had hardened his muscles. He became restless with his life of inactivity; and his mother, seeing that her quiet and secluded existence was no longer suitable for him, resolved to send him to her sister’s husband, Sir Robert Gordon, who dwelt near Lanark. Upon the night before he started she had a long talk with him.
“I have long observed, my boy,” she said, “the eagerness with which you constantly practise at arms; and Sandy tells me that he can no longer defend himself against you. Sandy, indeed is not a young man, but he is still hale and stout, and has lost but little of his strength. Therefore it seems that, though but a boy, you may be considered to have a man’s strength, for your father regarded Sandy as one of the stoutest and most skilful of his men-at-arms. I know what is in your thoughts; that you long to follow in your father’s footsteps, and to win back the possessions of which you have been despoiled by the Kerrs. But beware, my boy; you are yet but young; you have no friends or protectors, save Sir Robert Gordon, who is a peaceable man, and goes with the times; while the Kerrs are a powerful family, able to put a strong body in the field, and having many powerful friends and connections throughout the country. It is our obscurity which has so far saved you, for Sir John Kerr would crush you without mercy did he dream that you could ever become formidable; and he is surrounded by ruthless retainers, who would at a word from him take your life; therefore think not for years to come to match yourself against the Kerrs. You must gain a name and a following and powerful friends before you move a step in that direction; but I firmly believe that the time will come when you will become lord of Glencairn and the hills around it. Next, my boy, I see that your thoughts are ever running upon the state of servitude to which Scotland is reduced, and have marked how eagerly you listen to the deeds of that gallant young champion, Sir William Wallace. When the time comes I would hold you back from no enterprise in the cause of our country; but at present this is hopeless. Valiant as may be the deeds which Wallace and his band perform, they are as vain as the strokes of reeds upon armour against the power of England.”
“But, mother, his following may swell to an army.”
“Even so, Archie; but even as an army it would be but as chaff before the wind against an English array. What can a crowd of peasants, however valiant, do against the trained and disciplined battle of England. You saw how at Dunbar the Earl of Surrey scattered them like sheep, and then many of the Scotch nobles were present. So far there is no sign of any of the Scottish nobles giving aid or countenance to Wallace, and even should he gather an army, fear for the loss of their estates, a jealousy of this young leader, and the Norman blood in their veins, will bind them to England, and the Scotch would have to face not only the army of the invader, but the feudal forces of our own nobles. I say not that enterprises like those of Wallace do not aid the cause, for they do so greatly by exciting the spirit and enthusiasm of the people at large, as they have done in your case. They show them that the English are not invincible, and that even when in greatly superior numbers they may be defeated by Scotchmen who love their country. They keep alive the spirit of resistance and of hope, and prepare the time when the country shall make a general effort. Until that time comes, my son, resistance against the English power is vain. Even were it not so, you are too young to take part in such strife, but when you attain the age of manhood, if you should still wish to join the bands of Wallace — that is, if he be still able to make head against the English — I will not say nay. Here, my son, is your father’s sword. Sandy picked it up as he lay slain on the hearthstone, and hid it away; but now I can trust it with you. May it be drawn some day in the cause of Scotland! And now, my boy, the hour is late, and you had best to bed, for it were well that you made an early start for Lanark.”
The next morning Archie started soon after daybreak. On his back he carried a wallet, in which was a new suit of clothes suitable for one of the rank of a gentleman, which his mother had with great stint and difficulty procured for him. He strode briskly along, proud of the possession of a sword for the first time. It was in itself a badge of manhood, for at that time all men went armed.
As he neared the gates of Lanark he saw a party issue out and ride towards him, and recognized in their leader Sir John Kerr. Pulling his cap down over his eyes, he strode forward, keeping by the side of the road that the horsemen might pass freely, but paying no heed to them otherwise.
“Hallo, sirrah!” Sir John exclaimed, reining in his horse, “who are you who pass a knight and a gentleman on the highway without vailing his bonnet in respect?”
“I am a gentleman and the son of a knight,” Archie said, looking fearlessly up into the face of his questioner. “I am Archie Forbes, and I vail my bonnet to no man living save those whom I respect and honour.”
So saying, without another word he strode forward to the town. Sir John looked darkly after him.
“Red Roy,” he said sternly, turning to one who rode behind him, “you have failed in your trust. I told you to watch the boy, and from time to time you brought me news that he was growing up but a village churl. He is no churl, and unless I mistake me, he will some day be dangerous. Let me know when he next returns to the village; we must then take speedy steps for preventing him from becoming troublesome.”
Chapter III Sir William Wallace
Archie’s coming had been expected by Sir Robert Gordon, and he was warmly welcomed. He had once or twice a year paid short visits to the house, but his mother could not bring herself to part with him for more than a few days at a time; and so long as he needed only such rudiments of learning as were deemed useful at the time, she herself was fully able to teach them; but now that the time had come when it was needful that he should be perfected in the exercises of arms, she felt it necessary to relinquish him.
Sir Robert Gordon had no children of his own, and regarded his nephew as his heir, and had readily undertaken to provide him with the best instruction which could be obtained in Lanark. There was resident in the town a man who had served for many years in the army of the King of France, and had been master of arms in his regiment. His skill with his sword was considered marvellous by his countrymen at Lanark, for the scientific use of weapons was as yet but little known in Scotland, and he had also in several trials of skill easily worsted the best swordsmen in the English garrison.
Sir Robert Gordon at once engaged this man as instructor to Archie. As his residence was three miles from the town, and the lad urged that two or three hours a day of practice would by no means satisfy him, a room was provided, and his instructor took up his abode in the castle. Here, from early morning until night, Archie practised, with only such intervals for rest as were demanded by his master himself. The latter, pleased with so eager a pupil, astonished at first at the skill and strength which he already possessed, and seeing in him one who would do more than justice to all pains that he could bestow upon him, grudged no labour in bringing him forward and in teaching him all he knew.
“He is already an excellent swordsman,” he said at the end of the first week’s work to Sir Robert Gordon; “he is well nigh as strong as a man, with all the quickness and activity of a boy. In straightforward fighting he needs but little teaching. Of the finer strokes he as yet knows nothing; but such a pupil will learn as much in a week as the ordinary slow blooded learner will acquire in a year. In three months I warrant I will teach him all I know, and will engage that he shall be a match for any Englishman north of the Tweed, save in the matter of downright strength; that he will get in time, for he promises to grow out into a tall and stalwart man, and it will need a goodly champion to hold his own against him when he comes to his full growth.”
In the intervals of pike and sword play Sir Robert Gordon himself instructed him in equitation; but the lad did not take to this so kindly as he did to his other exercises, saying that he hoped he should always have to fight on foot. Still, as his uncle pointed out that assuredly this would not be the case, since in battle knights and squires always fought on horseback, he strove hard to acquire a firm and steady seat. Of an evening Archie sat with his uncle and aunt, the latter reading, the former relating stories of Scotch history and of the goings and genealogies of great families. Sometimes there were friends staying in the castle; for Sir Robert Gordon, although by no means a wealthy knight, was greatly liked, and, being of an hospitable nature, was glad to have guests in the house.
Their nearest neighbour was Mistress Marion Bradfute of Lamington, near Ellerslie. She was a young lady of great beauty. Her father had been for some time dead, and she had but lately lost her mother, who had been a great friend of Lady Gordon. With her lived as companion and guardian an aunt, the sister of her mother.
Mistress Bradfute, besides her estate of Lamington, possessed a house in Lanark; and she was frequently at Sir Robert’s castle, he having been named one of her guardians under her father’s will. Often in the evening the conversation turned upon the situation of Scotland, the cruelty and oppression of the English, and the chances of Scotland some day ridding herself of the domination.
Sir Robert ever spoke guardedly, for he was one who loved not strife, and the enthusiasm of Archie caused him much anxiety; he often, therefore, pointed out to him the madness of efforts of isolated parties like those of Wallace, which, he maintained, advanced in no way the freedom of the country, while they enraged the English and caused them to redouble the harshness and oppression of their rule. Wallace’s name was frequently mentioned, and Archie always spoke with enthusiasm of his hero; and he could see that, although Mistress Bradfute said but little, she fully shared his views. It was but natural that Wallace’s name should come so often forward, for his deeds, his hairbreadth escapes, his marvellous personal strength and courage, were the theme of talk in every Scotch home; but at Lanark at present it was specially prominent, for with his band he had taken up his abode in a wild and broken country known as Cart Lane Craigs, and more than once he had entered Lanark and had had frays with the English soldiers there.
It was near a year since the defeat of Dunbar; and although the feats of Wallace in storming small fortalices and cutting off English convoys had excited at once hope amongst the Scotch and anger in the English, the hold of the latter on the conquered country appeared more settled than ever. Wallace’s adherents had indeed gained in strength; but they were still regarded as a mere band of outlaws who might be troublesome, but were in no degree formidable.
Every great town and hold throughout Scotland was garrisoned by English in force deemed amply sufficient to repress any trouble which might arise, while behind them was the whole power of England ready to march north in case it should be needed. It seemed, indeed, that Scotland was completely and for ever subjugated.
One afternoon, when Archie had escorted Mistress Bradfute to Lamington, she said to him as he bade her farewell:
“I think you can keep a secret, Master Forbes.”
“I trust so,” Archie replied.
“I know how much you admire and reverence Sir William Wallace. If you will come hither this evening, at eight o’clock, you shall see him.”
Archie uttered an exclamation of delight and surprise.
“Mind, Archie, I am telling you a secret which is known only to Sir William himself and a few of his chosen followers; but I have obtained his permission to divulge it to you, assuring him that you can be fully trusted.”
“I would lay down my life for him,” the lad said.
“I think you would, Archie; and so would I, for Sir William Wallace is my husband!”
Archie gave a gasp of astonishment and surprise.
“Yes,” she repeated, “he is my husband. And now ride back to your uncle’s. I left the piece of embroidery upon which I was working on your aunt’s table. It will be a good excuse for you to ride over with it this evening.” So saying, she sprang lightly from the pillion on which she had been riding behind Archie. The lad rode back in wild excitement at the thought that before night he was to see his hero whose deeds had, for the last three years, excited his admiration and wonder.
At eight o’clock exactly he drew rein again at Lamington. He was at once admitted, and was conducted to a room where the mistress of the house was sitting, and where beside her stood a very tall and powerfully built young man, with a singularly handsome face and a courteous and gentle manner which seemed altogether out of character with the desperate adventures in which he was constantly engaged.
In Scotland the laws of chivalry, as they were strictly observed in the courts of England and France, did not prevail. Sir William Wallace had not received the order of knighthood; but in Scotch families the prefix of Sir descended from father to eldest son, as it does in the present day with the title of Baronet. Thus William Wallace, when his father and elder brother were killed, succeeded to the title. Knighthoods, or, as we should call them, baronetcies, were bestowed in Scotland, as in England, for bravery in the field and distinguished services. The English, with their stricter laws of chivalry, did not recognize these hereditary titles; and Sir William Wallace and many of his adherents who bear the prefix of Sir in all Scotch histories, are spoken of without that title in contemporary English documents. Archie himself had inherited the title from his father; and the prefix was, indeed, applied to the heads of almost all families of gentle blood in Scotland.
“This, Sir William,” Marion said, “is Sir Archibald Forbes, of whom I have often spoken to you as one of your most fervent admirers. He is a true Scotsman, and he yearns for the time when he may draw his sword in the cause of his country.”
“He is over young yet,” Sir William said smiling; “but time will cure that defect. It is upon the young blood of Scotland that our hopes rest. The elders are for the most part but half Scotchmen, and do not feel shame for their country lying at the feet of England; but from their sons I hope for better things. The example of my dear friend, Sir John Grahame, is being followed; and I trust that many young men of good family will soon join them.”
“I would that the time had come when I too could do so, sir,” Archie said warmly. “I hope that it will not be long before you may think me capable of being admitted to the honour of fighting beside you. Do you not remember that you yourself were but eighteen when you slew young Selbye?”
“I am a bad example to be followed,” Sir William replied with a smile; “besides, nature made an exception in my case and brought me to my full strength and stature full four years before the time. Mistress Marion tells me, however, that you too are strong beyond your years.”
“I have practised unceasingly, sir, with my weapons for the last two years; and deem me not boastful when I say that my instructor, Duncan Macleod of Lanark, who is a famous swordsman, says that I could hold my own and more against any English soldier in the garrison.”
“I know Duncan by report,” Sir William replied, “and that he is a famous swordsman, having learned the art in France, where they are more skilled by far than we are in Scotland. As for myself, I must own that it is my strength rather than my skill which gives me an advantage in a conflict; for I put my trust in a downright blow, and find that the skill of an antagonist matters but little, seeing that my blow will always cleave through sword as well as helm. Nevertheless I do not decry skill, seeing that between two who are in any ways equally matched in strength and courage the most skilful swordsman must assuredly conquer. Well, since that be the report of you by Master Duncan, I should think you might even take to arms at the age that I did myself and when that time comes, should your intentions hold the same, and the English not have made an end of me, I shall be right glad to have you by my side. Should you, in any of your visits to Lanark — whither, Marion tells me, you ride frequently with Sir Robert Gordon — hear ought of intended movements of English troops, or gather any news which it may concern me to know, I pray you to ride hither at once. Marion has always messengers whom she may despatch to me, seeing that I need great care in visiting her here, lest I might be surprised by the English, who are ever upon the lookout for me. And now farewell! Remember that you have always a friend in William Wallace.”
Winter was now at hand, and a week or two later Mistress Marion moved into her house in Lanark, where Archie, when he rode in, often visited her. In one of her conversations she told him that she had been married to Sir William nigh upon two years, and that a daughter had been born to her who was at present kept by an old nurse of her own in a cottage hard by Lamington. “I tell you this, Archie,” she said, “for there is no saying at what time calamity may fall upon us. Sir William is so daring and careless that I live in constant dread of his death or capture; and did it become known that I am his wife, doubtless my estate would be forfeited and myself taken prisoner; and in that case it were well that my little daughter should find friends.”
“I wonder that you do not stay at Lamington,” Archie said; “for Sir William’s visits to you here may well be discovered, and both he and you be put in peril.”
“I would gladly do so,” she said; “but as you may have heard, Young Hazelrig, the governor’s son, persecutes me with his attentions; he is moved thereto methinks rather by a desire for my possessions than any love for myself. He frequently rode over to Lamington to see me, and as there are necessarily many there who suspect, if they do not know, my secret, my husband would be more likely to be surprised in a lonely house there, than he would be in the city, where he can always leave or enter our abode by the passage into a back street unseen by any.”
A few days later Archie had ridden into Lanark bearing a message from his uncle; he had put up his horse, and was walking along the principal street when he heard a tumult and the clashing of swords; he naturally hurried up to see what was the cause of the fray, and he saw Sir William Wallace and a young companion defending themselves with difficulty against a number of English soldiers led by young Hazelrig, the son of the governor, and Sir Robert Thorne, one of his officers. Archie stood for a few moments irresolute; but as the number of the assailants increased, as fresh soldiers hearing the sound of the fray came running down the street, and Sir William and his friend, although they had slain several, were greatly overmatched, he hesitated no longer, but, drawing his sword, rushed through the soldiers, and placing himself by the side of Wallace, joined in the fray. Wallace recognized him with a nod.
“It is sooner than I bargained for, Sir Archie; but you are very welcome. Ah! that was well smitten, and Duncan did not overpraise your skill,” he exclaimed, as Archie cut down one soldier, and wounded another who pressed upon him.
“They are gathering in force, Sir William,” the knight’s companion said, “and if we do not cut our way through them we shall assuredly be taken.” Keeping near the wall they retreated down the street, Archie and Sir John Grahame, for it was he, clearing the way, and Wallace defending the rear. So terrific were the blows he dealt that the English soldiers shrank back from attacking him.
At this moment two horsemen rode up and reined in their horses to witness the fray. They were father and son, and the instant the eyes of the elder fell upon Archie he exclaimed to his son:
“This is good fortune. That is young Forbes fighting by the side of the outlaw Wallace. I will finish our dispute at once.”
So saying he drew his sword, and urged his horse through the soldiers towards Archie; the latter equally recognized the enemy of his family. Sir John aimed a sweeping blow at him. The lad parried it, and, leaping back, struck at the horse’s leg. The animal fell instantly, and as he did so Archie struck full on the helm of Sir John Kerr, stretching him on the ground beside his horse.
By this time the little party had retreated down the street until they were passing the house of Marion Bradfute. The door opened, and Marion herself cried to them to enter. So hemmed in were they, indeed, that further retreat was now impossible, and there being no time for hesitation, Wallace and his companions sprang in before their assailants could hinder them, and shut the door behind them.
“Marion,” Wallace exclaimed, “why did you do this? It mattered not were I killed or taken; but now you have brought danger upon yourself.”
“But it mattered much to me. What would life be worth were you killed? Think not of danger to me. Angry as they may be, they will hardly touch a woman. But waste no time in talking, for the door will soon yield to their blows. Fly by the back entrance, while there is time.”
So saying, she hurried them to the back of the house, and without allowing them to pause for another word almost pushed them out, and closed the door behind them. The lane was deserted; but the shouts and clamour of the English soldiers beyond the houses rose loud in the air. “Quick, Sir William,” Sir John Grahame said, “or we shall be cut off! They will bethink them of the back way, and send soldiers down to intercept us.”
Such, indeed, was the case, for as they ran they heard shouts behind, and saw some English soldiers entering the other end of the lane. In front, however, all was clear, and running on they turned into another street, and then down to the gate. The guard, hearing the tumult, had turned out, and seeing them running, strove to bar their way. Wallace, however, cleared a path by sweeping blows with his sword, and dashing through the gates into the open country they were safe. For some distance they ran without checking their speed, and then as they neared a wood, where they no longer feared pursuit, they broke into a walk.
“My best thanks to you,” Wallace said to Archie. “You have indeed proved yourself a staunch and skilful swordsman, and Duncan’s opinion is well founded. Indeed I could wish for no stouter sword beside me in a fight; but what will you do now? If you think that you were not recognized you can return to your uncle; but if any there knew you, you must even then take to the woods with me.”
“I was recognized,” Archie said in a tone of satisfaction. “The armed knight whom you saw attack me was Sir John Kerr, the slayer of my father and the enemy of my house. Assuredly he will bring the news of my share in the fray to the ears of the governor.”
“I do not think that he will carry any news for some time,” Sir William replied; “for that blow you gave him on the head must have well nigh brought your quarrel to an end. It is a pity your arm had not a little more weight, for then, assuredly you would have slain him.”
“But the one with him was his son,” Archie said, “and would know me too; so that I shall not be safe for an hour at my uncle’s.”
“In that case, Sir Archie, you must needs go with me, there being no other way for it, and truly, now that it is proved a matter of necessity, I am glad that it has so chanced, since I see that your youth is indeed no drawback; and Sir John Grahame will agree with me that there is no better sword in my company.”
“Yes, indeed,” the young knight said. “I could scarce believe my eyes when I saw one so young bear himself so stoutly. Without his aid I could assuredly have made no way through the soldiers who barred our retreat; and truly his sword did more execution than mine, although I fought my best. If you will accept my friendship, young sir, henceforth we will be brothers in arms.” Colouring with pleasure, Archie grasped the hand which the young knight held out to him.
“That is well said, Sir John,” Wallace assented. “Hitherto you and I have been like brothers; henceforth there will be three of us, and I foresee that the only difficulty we shall have with this our youngest relation will be to curb his courage and ardour. Who knows,” he went on sadly, “but that save you two I am now alone in the world! My heart misgives me sorely as to the fate of Marion; and were it not for the sake of Scotland, to whom my life is sworn, I would that I had stopped and died outside her door before I entered and brought danger upon her head. Had I had time to reflect, methinks I would have done so; but I heard her call, I saw the open door, and without time for thought or reflection I leapt in.”
“You must not blame yourself, Sir William,” Grahame said, “for, indeed, there was no time for thought; nor will I that it should have been otherwise, even should harm, which I cannot believe, befall Mistress Marion. It is on you that the hopes of Scotland now rest. You have awakened her spirit and taught the lesson of resistance. Soon I hope that the fire now smouldering in the breast of every true Scotsman will burst into flame, and that Scotland will make a great effort for freedom; but were you to fall now, despair would seize on all and all hope of a general rising be at an end.”
Wallace made no reply, but strode silently forward. A short distance farther they came to the spot where three of Wallace’s followers were holding horses, for he had on his entry into Lanark, been accompanied by another of his party, who had been slain at the commencement of the fray. Wallace bade Archie mount the spare horse, and they then rode to Cart Lane Craigs, scarce a word being spoken on their journey.
Wallace’s headquarters were upon a narrow shelf of rock on the face of a steep and craggy hill. It was well chosen against surprise, and could be held against sudden attack even by a large force, since both behind and in front the face of the hill was too steep to be climbed, and the only approach was by a steep and winding path which two men could hold against a host. The ledge was some 50 feet long by 12 wide. At the back a natural depression in the crags had been deepened so as to form a shallow cave just deep enough to afford a defense against the weather; here a pile of heather served as a bed for Wallace, Grahame, and one or two others of the leaders of his company, and here Wallace told Archie that his place was to be. On the ledge without were some low arbours of heather in which lay ten of Wallace’s bravest companions; the rest of his band were scattered among the surrounding hills, or in the woods, and a bugle note repeated from place to place would call all together in a short space of time.
Of stores and provisions there was no lack, these having been obtained in very large quantities from the convoys of supplies and the castles that had been captured. Money, too, was not wanting, considerable amounts having fallen into their hands, and the peasantry through all the country round were glad in every way to assist the band, whom they regarded as their champions.
Archie sat down by Sir John Grahame, who gave him particulars regarding the strength of the various bands, their position, the rules which had been laid down by Wallace for their order, the system of signals and other particulars; while Wallace paced restlessly up and down the narrow shelf, a prey to the keenest anxiety. Towards nightfall two of the men were despatched towards Lanark to endeavour to find out what had taken place there; but in an hour they returned with a woman, whom both Sir William and Archie recognized as one of the female attendants of Marion. A single glance sufficed to tell her tale. Her face was swollen with crying, and wore a look of horror as well as of grief.
“She is dead!” Wallace exclaimed in a low voice.
“Alas!” the woman sobbed, “that I should have to tell it. Yes, my dear mistress is dead; she was slain by the orders of the governor himself, for having aided your escape.”
A groan burst from Wallace, a cry of horror and indignation from his followers. The former turned, and without a word strode away and threw himself upon the heather. The others, heart struck at the cruel blow which had befallen their chief, and burning with indignation and rage, could only utter oaths of vengeance and curses on the English tyrants.
After a time Grahame went to the cave, and putting his hand on Wallace’s shoulder strove to address a few words of consolation to him.
Sir William rose: “I have done with weeping, Grahame, or rather I will put off my weeping until I have time for it. The first thing to think of is vengeance, and vengeance I swear that I will have. This night I will strike the first blow in earnest towards freeing Scotland. It may be that God has willed it that this cruel blow, which has been struck at me, shall be the means of bringing this about. Hitherto, although I have hated the English and have fought against them, it has been but fitfully and without order or method, seeing that other things were in my heart. Henceforth I will live but for vengeance and Scotland. Hitherto the English have regarded me as an outlaw and a brigand. Henceforth they shall view me as an enemy to be dreaded. Sound the signal of assembly at once. Signify that as many as are within reach shall gather below in two hours. There will be but few, for, not dreaming of this, the bands but two days since dispersed. But even were there none but ourselves it would suffice. Tonight we will take Lanark.”
Chapter IV The Capture of Lanark
A low shout of enthusiasm rose from Wallace’s followers, and they repeated his words as though it had been a vow: “Tonight we will take Lanark.” The notes of a bugle rang through the air, and Archie could hear them repeated as by an echo by others far away in the woods.
The next two hours were spent in cooking and eating a meal; then the party on the ledge descended the narrow path, several of their number bearing torches. At a short distance from its foot some other torches were seen, and fifteen men were found gathered together.
In a few words the sad news of what had taken place at Lanark was related to them and the determination which had been arrived at, and then the whole party marched away to the west. Archie’s heart beat with excitement as he felt himself engaged in one of the adventures which had so filled his thoughts and excited his admiration. An adventure, too, far surpassing in magnitude and importance any in which Wallace had hitherto been engaged.
It seemed almost like an act of madness for twenty-five men to attack a city garrisoned by over 500 English troops, defended by strong walls; but Archie never doubted for a moment that success would attend the enterprise, so implicit was his confidence in his leader. When at some little distance from the town they halted, and Wallace ordered a tree to be felled and lopped of its branches. It was some eight inches in diameter at the butt and thirty feet long. A rope had been brought, and this was now cut into lengths of some four feet. Wallace placed ten of his men on each side of the tree, and the cords being placed under it, it was lifted and carried along with them.
Before they started Wallace briefly gave them his orders, so that no word need be spoken when near the town. The band were, when they entered, to divide in three. Sir John Grahame, with a party, was to make for the dwelling of Sir Robert Thorne. Auchinleck, who had arrived with the party summoned by the bugle, was to arouse the town and attack any parties of soldiers in the street, while Wallace himself was to assault the house of Hazelrig. He bade Archie accompany him.
Knowing the town well Wallace led the party to the moat at a spot facing a sally port. They moved without a word being spoken. The men bearing the tree laid it noiselessly to the ground. Wallace himself sprang into the moat and swam across. The splash in the water attracted the attention of a sentry over the gate, who at once challenged. There was no answer, and the man again shouted, peering over the wall to endeavour to discover what had caused the splash. In a few vigorous strokes Wallace was across, hauled himself up to the sill of the door, and with his heavy battleaxe smote on the chains which held up the drawbridge. Two mighty blows and the chains yielded, and the drawbridge fell with a crash across the moat.
Instantly the men lifted the tree, and dashing across swung it like a battering ram against the door — half a dozen blows, and the oak and iron yielded before it. The door was burst in and the party entered Lanark. The sentry on the wall had fled at once to arouse the garrison. Instantly the three leaders started to perform the tasks assigned to them. As yet the town lay in profound sleep, although near the gate windows were opening and heads were being put out to ascertain the cause of the din. As the Scots ran forward they shouted “Death to the English, death to the bloody Hazelrig!” The governor had long been odious for his cruelty and tyranny, and the murder of Marion Bradfute had that day roused the indignation of the people to the utmost. Not knowing how small was the force that had entered the town, but hoping only that deliverers had arrived, numbers of the burghers rose and armed themselves, and issued forth into the streets to aid their countrymen. Wallace soon arrived at the governor s house, and with a few blows with his axe broke in the door; then he and his followers rushed into the house, cutting down the frightened men as they started up with sudden alarm, until he met Sir John Hazelrig, who had snatched up his arms and hurried from his chamber.
“Villain!” Wallace exclaimed, seizing him by his throat; your time has come to make atonement for the murder of my wife.”
Then dragging him into the street he called upon the burghers, who were running up, to witness the execution of their tyrant, and stepping back a pace smote off his head with his sword. Young Hazelrig was also killed, as were all soldiers found in the house. The alarm bells were ringing now, and in a few minutes the armed burghers swarmed in the street. As the English soldiers, as yet but scarce awake, and bewildered by this sudden attack, hurried from their houses, they were fallen upon and slain by Wallace and the townspeople. Some of those in the larger houses issuing forth together were able to cut their way through and to make their escape by the gates; many made for the walls, and dropping in the moat swam across and escaped; but two hundred and fifty of their number were left dead in the streets. The town, once cleared of the English, gave itself up to wild rejoicings; bonfires were lighted in the streets, the bells were rung, and the wives and daughters of the citizens issued out to join in their rejoicing and applaud their liberators.
Wallace held council at once with the chief burghers. Their talk was a grave one, for though rejoicing in the liberation of the city, they could not but perceive that the situation was a serious one. By the defeat and destruction of the garrison, and the slaying of the governor, the town would bring upon itself the terrible wrath of King Edward, and of what he was capable the murdered thousands at Berwick sufficiently attested. However, the die was cast and there was no drawing back, and the burghers undertook to put their town in a state of full defence, to furnish a contingent of men-at-arms to Wallace, and to raise a considerable sum of money to aid him in the carrying on of the war; while he on his part undertook to endeavour, as fast as possible, to prevent the English from concentrating their forces for a siege of the town, by so harassing their garrisons elsewhere that none would be able to spare troops for any general purposes.
Proclamations were immediately made out in the name of Wallace, and were sent off by mounted messengers throughout the country. In these he announced to the people of Scotland that he had raised the national banner and had commenced a war for the freeing of the country from the English, and that as a first step he had captured Lanark. He called upon all true Scotchmen to rally round him.
While the council was being held, the wives of the burghers had taken the body of Marion from the place where it had been cast, and where hitherto none had dared to touch it, and had prepared it for burial, placing it in a stone coffin, such as were in use in those days, upon a car which was covered with trappings of white and green boughs. Soon after daybreak a great procession was formed, and accompanied by all the matrons and maids of Lanark the body was conveyed to the church at Ellerslie, and there buried with the rites of the church. This sad duty ended, Wallace mounted his horse and rode for Cart Lane Craigs, which he had named as the rendezvous where all who loved Scotland and would follow him, were to assemble. Archie rode first to Sir Robert Gordon’s. His uncle received him kindly.
“Ah! my boy,” he said, “I feared that your wilful disposition would have its way. You have embarked young on a stormy course, and none can say where it will end. I myself have no hope that it can be successful. Did the English rule depend solely on the troops which garrison our towns and fortresses, I should believe that Wallace might possibly expel them; but this is as nothing. Edward can march a hundred and fifty thousand trained soldiers hither, and how will it be possible for any gathering of Scotchmen to resist these? However, you have chosen your course, and as it is too late to draw back now, I would not dispirit you. Take the best of my horses from the stable, and such arms and armour as you may choose from the walls. Here is a purse for your own private needs, and in this other are a hundred pounds, which I pray you hand to Sir William Wallace. Fighting never was in my way, and I am too old to begin now. Tell him, however, that my best wishes are with him. I have already sent word to all my tenants that they are free, if they choose, to follow his banner.”
“You have plenty of pikes and swords in the armoury, uncle; weapons will be very useful; can I take some of them?”
“Certainly, Archie, as many as you like. But your aunt wants you to ride at once to Glen Cairn, to ask your mother to come over here and take up her abode till the stormy times are over. The news of last night’s doings in Lanark will travel fast, and she will be terribly anxious. Besides, as the Kerrs are heart and soul with the English faction, like enough they will take the opportunity of the disturbed times, and of your being involved in the rising, to destroy the hold altogether, seeing that so long as it stands there it is a sort of symbol that their lordship over the lands is disputed.”
“The very thing that I was going to ask you, uncle. My mother’s position at Glen Cairn would always be on my mind. As to the Kerrs, let them burn the castle if they will. If the rising fail, and I am killed, the line will be extinct, and it matters little about our hold. If we succeed, then I shall regain my own, and shall turn the tables on the Kerrs, and will rebuild Glen Cairn twice as strong as before. And now can I take a cart to convey the arms?”
“Certainly, Archie; and may they be of service in the cause. You will, I suppose, conduct your mother hither?”
Archie replied that he should do so, and then at once made his preparations for the start. His uncle’s armoury was well supplied, and Archie had no difficulty in suiting himself. For work like that which he would have to do he did not care to encumber himself with heavy armour, but chose a light but strong steel cap, with a curtain of mail falling so as to guard the neck and ears, leaving only the face exposed, and a shirt of the same material. It was of fine workmanship and of no great weight, and did not hamper his movements. He also chose some leg pieces for wearing when on horseback. He had already his father’s sword, and needed only a light battleaxe and a dagger to complete his offensive equipment. Then he took down from the racks twenty swords and as many short pikes, and bonnets strengthened with iron hoops, which, although light, were sufficient to give much protection to the head. These were all placed in a light cart, and with one of his uncle’s followers to drive, he took his seat in the cart, and started for Cart Lane Craigs.
Here he concealed the arms in a thicket, and then went up to speak to his leader.
“May I take ten men with me to Glen Cairn, Sir William? I am going to fetch my mother to reside with my uncle until the storm is over. He has sent you a hundred pounds towards the expenses of the struggle. I want the guard because it is possible that the Kerrs may be down there. I hear Sir John was carried away, three hours after the fight, in a litter; it was well for him that he was not in Lanark when we took it. But like enough this morning, if well enough to give orders, he may be sending down to Glen Cairn to see if I have returned, and may burn the hold over my mother’s head.”
“Certainly,” Sir William replied. “Henceforth I will put twenty men under your special orders, but for today Sir John Grahame shall tell off some of his own party. Of course they will go well armed.”
Half riding in the cart and half walking by turns, the party reached Glen Cairn late in the afternoon. The news of the fall of Lanark had already penetrated even to that quiet village, and there was great excitement as Archie and his party came in. One of Wallace’s messengers had passed through, and many of the men were preparing to join him. Dame Forbes was at once proud and grieved when Archie told her of the share which he had had in the street fray at Lanark, and in the capture of the town. She was proud that her son should so distinguish himself, grieved that he should, at so young an age, have become committed to a movement of whose success she had but little hope. However, she could not blame him, as it seemed as if his course had been forced upon him. She agreed to start early the next morning.
It was well for Archie that he had brought a guard with him, for before he had been an hour in the hold a boy ran in from the village saying that a party of the Kerrs was close at hand, and would be there in a few minutes. Archie set his men at once to pile up a barricade of stones breast high at the outer gate, and took his position there with his men. He had scarcely completed his preparations when the trampling of horses was heard and a party of ten men, two of whom bore torches, headed by young Allan Kerr, rode up. They drew rein abruptly as they saw the barricade with the line of pikes behind it.
“What want you here, Allan Kerr?” Archie said.
“I came in search of you, little traitor,” young Kerr replied angrily.
“Here I am,” Archie said; “why don’t you come and take me?”
Allan saw that the number of the defenders of the gate exceeded that of his own party, and there might, for aught he knew, be more within.
“I will take you tomorrow,” he said.
“Tomorrow never comes,” Archie replied with a laugh. “Your father thought to take me yesterday. How is the good knight? Not suffering, I trust, greatly either in body or temper?”
“You shall repent this, Archibald Forbes,” Allan Kerr exclaimed furiously. “It will be my turn next time.”
And turning his horse he rode off at full speed, attended by his followers.
“We had best start at once, Master Archie,” Sandy Graham said: “it is eight miles to the Kerrs’ hold, and when Allan Kerr returns there you may be sure they will call out their vassals and will be here betimes in the morning. Best get another cart from the village, for your men are weary and footsore, seeing that since yesterday even they have been marching without ceasing. Elspie will by this time have got supper ready. There was a row of ducks and chickens on the spit when I came away.”
“That were best, Sandy. Do you see to their comforts, and aid my mother pack up such things as she most values, and I will go myself down to the village for the cart, for I wish to speak with some there.”
Archie had no difficulty in engaging two carts, as he thought that one would be needed for his mother and what possessions she might take. Then he went from house to house and saw his old companions, and told them of his plans, which filled them with delight. Having done this he returned to the hold, hastily ate the supper which had been put aside for him, and then saw that his mother’s chests, which contained all her possessions save a few articles of heavy furniture, were placed in one of the carts. A bed was then laid on its floor upon which she could sit comfortably. Elspie mounted with her. Archie, Sandy, and the men took their places in the other carts, and the party drove off. They had no fear of interruption, for the Kerrs, ignorant of the number who had arrived with Archie at Glen Cairn, would not venture to attack until they had gathered a considerable force, and would not be likely to set out till morning, and long before that time Dame Forbes would have arrived at her sister’s.
The journey was indeed performed without incident, the escort leaving them when within two or three miles of Lanark, and making their way direct to the craigs, whither Archie, the moment he had seen his mother safely at Sir Robert Gordon’s, returned. He did not mount the craig, but wrapping himself in his cloak lay down at its foot.
As soon as it was daylight he walked out a mile on the road towards Glen Cairn. He soon saw a party approaching in military order. They halted when they reached him. They were twenty in number, and were the lads of his band at Glen Cairn, ranging between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. They had originally been stronger, but some of the elders had already joined Wallace’s followers.
“Now,” Archie said, “I can explain matters farther than I did last night. I have procured arms for you all, and I hope that you will have opportunities of using them. But though some of you are old enough to join Wallace’s band, there are others whom he might not deem fit to take part in such desperate enterprises. Therefore at first make but little show of your arms. I shall present you to Sir William, telling him that I have brought you hither to serve as messengers, and to enter towns held by the English and gather news, seeing that lads would be less suspected than men. But I propose farther, what I shall not tell him, that you shall form a sort of bodyguard to him. He takes not sufficient care of himself, and is ever getting into perils. I propose that without his knowing it, you shall be ever at hand when he goes into danger of this sort, and may thus prevent his falling into the hands of his enemies. Now, mind, lads, this is a great and honourable mission. You must be discreet as well as brave, and ready all of you to give your lives, if need be, for that of Scotland’s champion. Your work as messengers and scouts will be arduous and wearisome. You must be quiet and well behaved — remember that boys’ tricks and play are out of place among men engaged in a desperate enterprise. Mingle not much with the others. Be active and prompt in obeying orders, and be assured that you will have opportunities of winning great honour and credit, and of having your full share of hard knocks. You will, as before, be divided into two companies, William Orr and Andrew Macpherson being your lieutenants in my absence. You will obey their orders as implicitly as mine. Cluny, you have, I suppose, brought, as I bade you last night, some of your sister’s garments?”
“Yes, Sir Archie,” the boy, who was fair and slight, said, with a smile on his face.
“That is right. I know you are as hearty and strong as the rest; but seeing that your face is the smoothest and softest of any, you will do best should we need one in disguise as a girl. And now come with me. I will show you where your arms are placed; but at present you must not take them. If I led you as an armed band to Wallace he might deem you too young. I must present you merely as lads whom I know to be faithful and trustworthy, and who are willing to act as messengers and scouts to his force.”
So saying Archie led the band to the thicket where he had placed their arms, and the lads were pleased when they saw the pikes, swords, and head pieces. Then he led them up the craig to Wallace.
“Why, whom have you here?” Sir William exclaimed in surprise. “This will not do, Sir Archie. All lads are not like yourself, and were I to take such boys into my ranks I should have all the mothers in Scotland calling out against me.”
“I have not brought them to join your ranks, Sir William, although many of them are stout fellows who might do good service at a pinch. I have brought them to act as messengers and scouts. They can carry orders whithersoever you may have occasion to send. They can act as scouts to warn you of the approach of an enemy; or if you need news of the state of any of the enemy’s garrisons, they can go thither and enter without being suspected, when a man might be questioned and stopped. They are all sons of my father’s vassals at Glen Cairn, and I can answer for their fidelity. I will take them specially under my own charge, and you will ever have a fleet and active messenger at hand when you desire to send an order.”
“The idea is not a bad one,” Sir William replied; “and in such a way a lad may well do the work of a man. Very well, Sir Archie, since you seem to have set your mind upon it I will not say nay. At any rate we can give the matter a trial, understanding that you take the charge of them and are responsible for them in all ways. Now, lads,” he said turning, “you have heard that your lord, for he is your rightful lord, and will, if Scotland gains the day, be your real lord again, has answered for you. It is no boys’ play in which you have taken service, for the English, if they conquer us, will show no further mercy to you than to others of my band. I understand then that you are all prepared, if need be, to die for Scotland. Is this so?”
“We are, sir,” the lads exclaimed together.
“Then so be it,” Sir William said. “Now, Sir Archie, do you fix a place for their encampment, and make such other arrangements as you may think fit. You will, of course, draw rations and other necessaries for them as regular members of the band.”
Archie descended with his troop from the craigs, and chose a spot where they would be apart from the others. It was a small piece of ground cut off by the stream which wound at the foot of the craigs, so that to reach it it was necessary to wade knee deep through the water. This was no inconvenience to the lads, all of whom, as was common with their class at the time, were accustomed to go barefoot, although they sometimes wore a sort of sandal. Bushes were cut down, and arbours made capable of containing them. The spot was but a little distance from the foot of the path up the craigs, and any one descending the path could be seen from it.
Archie gave orders that one was always to be above in readiness to start instantly with a message; that a sentry was to be placed at the camp, who was to keep his eyes upon the path, and the moment the one on duty above was seen to leave, the next upon the list was to go up and take his place. None were to wander about the wood, but all were to remain in readiness for any duty which might be required. The two lieutenants were charged to drill them constantly at their exercises so as to accustom them to the weight and handle of their arms. Two were to be sent off every morning to the depot where the provisions were issued, to draw food for the whole for the day, and four were to be posted five miles away on the roads leading towards the craigs to give warning of the approach of any enemies. These were to be relieved every six hours. They were to be entirely unarmed, and none were to issue from the camp with arms except when specially ordered.
Having made these arrangements, and taking with him one of the band as the first on duty above, he rejoined Wallace at his post on the craigs.
Wallace’s numbers now increased fast. On hearing of the fall of Lanark, and on the receipt of the proclamation calling upon all true Scotchmen to join him in his effort to deliver their country from its yoke, the people began to flock in in great numbers. Richard Wallace of Riccarton and Robert Boyd came in with such force as they could collect from Kyle and Cunningham, among whom were not less than 1000 horsemen. Sir John Grahame, Sir John of Tinto, and Auchinleck assembled about 3000 mounted troops and a large number of foot, many of whom, however, were imperfectly armed. Sir Ronald Crawford, Wallace’s uncle, being so close to Ayr, could not openly join him, but secretly sent reinforcements and money. Many other gentlemen joined with their followers.
The news of the fall of Lanark and of the numbers who were flocking to join Wallace paralysed the commanders of the English garrisons, and for a time no steps were taken against him; but news of the rising was instantly sent to King Edward, who, furious at this fresh trouble in Scotland, which he had deemed finally conquered, instantly commenced preparations for another invasion. A body of troops was at once sent forward from England, and, being strengthened by bodies drawn from all the garrisons, assembled at Biggar. The army was commanded by the Earl of Kent. Heralds were sent to Wallace offering him not only pardon but an honourable post if he would submit, but warning him that if he refused this offer he should, when taken, be treated as a rebel and hung.
Wallace briefly refused submission, and said that he should be ready to give battle on the following morning.
At daybreak the army set forth, divided into three parts. Wallace, with Boyd and Auchinleck, commanded one; Sir John Grahame, with Wallace of Riccarton, the second; Sir Walter of Newbigging, with his son David and Sir John Clinto, the third. The cavalry were placed in front. The footmen, being imperfectly armed and disciplined, and therefore unable to withstand the first charge of the English, followed the cavalry.
Before marching forward Wallace called the commanders round him and charged them earnestly to restrain their men from plunder until the contest was decided, pointing out that many a battle had been lost owing to the propensity of those who gained the first advantage to scatter for plunder. Just as the Scotch were moving, a body of 300 horsemen, well armed and equipped, from Annandale and Eskdale, led by Halliday, Kirkpatrick, and Jardine, joined them; and with this accession of strength they marched forward confidently against the enemy.
Chapter V A Treacherous Plot
So rapid was the advance of Wallace’s army that the English had scarce time to form when they were upon them. The Scotch charged with extreme impetuosity among the English ranks, directing the onslaught principally against the centre, commanded by the Earl of Kent.
The English resisted stoutly; but the Earl of Kent was struck down by Wallace himself, and was with difficulty borne off the field; and after severe fighting, the whole English army was thrown into disorder and took to flight. Some hundreds were killed in action, and many more in the pursuit which followed; this, however, Wallace would not allow to be pushed too far lest the fugitives should rally and turn. Then the victorious Scots returned to the English camp. In this was found a great abundance of provisions, arms, and other valuable booty. Many of the cattle were killed, and a sumptuous feast prepared. Then Wallace had the whole of the spoil carried off into a place of safety in the heart of a neighbouring bog, and he himself fell back to that shelter.
In the morning the English, who had rallied when the pursuit had ceased, again advanced, hoping to find Wallace unprepared. They were now commanded by the Earl of Lancaster, and had received some reinforcements in the night. They passed over the scene of the previous day’s battle, and at last came in sight of the Scotch army. Wallace at first advanced, and then, as if dismayed at their superior strength, retired to the point where, in order to reach them, the English would have to cross a portion of the bog. The surface was covered with moss and long grass, and the treacherous nature of the ground was unperceived by the English, who, filled with desire to wipe out their defeat of the preceding day, charged impetuously against the Scotch line. The movement was fatal, for as soon as they reached the treacherous ground their horses sunk to the saddle girths. The Scotch had dismounted on firmer ground behind, and now advanced to the attack, some working round the flanks of the morass, others crossing on tufts of grass, and so fell upon the struggling mass of English. The Earl of Westmoreland and many others of note were killed, and the Earl of Lancaster, with the remains of his force, at once retreated south and recrossed the Border.
Archie had taken no part in the first battle. Wallace had asked him whether he would fight by his side or take command of a body of infantry; and he chose the latter alternative. Almost all the knights and gentlemen were fighting on horse with their followers, and Archie thought that if these were repulsed the brunt of the fray would fall upon the infantry. On this occasion, then, he gathered with his band of lads a hundred or so pikemen, and formed them in order, exhorting them, whatever happened, to keep together and to stand stoutly, even against a charge of horse. As the victory was won entirely by the cavalry he had no opportunity of distinguishing himself. Upon the second day, however, he did good service, as he and his lightly armed footmen were able to cross the bog in places impracticable to the dismounted men-at-arms in their heavy accoutrements.
The victory of Biggar still further swelled Wallace’s forces. Sir William Douglas joined him, and other gentlemen. A great meeting was held at Forest Kirk, when all the leaders of Wallace’s force were present; and these agreed to acknowledge him as general of the Scottish forces against England, with the title of Warden of Scotland.
King Edward was at this time busied with his wars in France, and was unable to despatch an army capable of effecting the reconquest of that portion of Scotland now held by Wallace; and as the English forces in the various garrisons were insufficient for such purpose, the Earl of Percy and the other leaders proposed a truce. This was agreed to. Although Wallace was at the head of a considerable force, Sir William Douglas was the only one among the Scottish nobles of importance who had joined him; and although the successes which he had gained were considerable, but little had been really done towards freeing Scotland, all of whose strong places were still in the hands of the English, and King Edward had not as yet really put out his strength.
The greater portion of the army of Wallace was now dispersed.
Shortly afterwards the governor of Ayr issued a notice that a great council would be held at that town, and all the Scotch gentlemen of importance in the district were desired to attend. Wallace was one of those invited; and deeming that the governor might have some proposition of Edward to lay before them, he agreed to do so. Although a truce had been arranged, he himself with a band of his most devoted followers still remained under arms in the forest, strictly keeping the truce, but holding communications with his friends throughout the country, urging them to make every preparation, by collecting arms and exercising their vassals, to take the field with a better appointed force at the conclusion of the truce. Provisions and money were in abundance, so large had been the captures effected; but Wallace was so accustomed to the free life of the woods that he preferred to remain there to taking up his abode in a town. Moreover, here he was safe from treachery; for he felt sure that although the English nobles and leaders would be incapable of breaking a truce, yet that there were many of lower degree who would not hesitate at any deed of treachery by which they might gain reward and credit from their king. Archie’s band were found of the greatest service as messengers; and although he sometimes spent a few days at Sir Robert Gordon’s with his mother, he generally remained by the side of Wallace. The spot where the Scottish leader was now staying lay about halfway between Lanark and Ayr.
Archie heard with uneasiness the news of the approaching council, and Wallace’s acceptance of the invitation. The fact that the Earl of Percy, a very noble knight and gentleman, had been but lately recalled from the governorship of Ayr and had been replaced by one of somewhat low degree, Arlouf of Southampton, still further increased his doubts. It seemed strange that the governorship of so important a town — a post deemed fitting for Earl Percy — should be bestowed on such a man, were it not that one was desired who would not hesitate to perform an action from which any honourable English gentleman would shrink.
Two days before the day fixed for the council he called Cluny Campbell and another lad named Jock Farrel to him.
“I have a most important mission for you,” he said. “You have heard of the coming council at Ayr. I wish to find out if any evil is intended by the governor. For this purpose you two will proceed thither. You Cluny will put on the garments which you brought with you; while you Jock had best go as his brother. Here is money. On your way procure baskets and buy chickens and eggs, and take them in with you to sell. Go hither and thither among the soldiers and hear what they say. Gather whether among the townspeople there is any thought that foul play may be intended by the English. Two of the band will accompany you to within a mile of Ayr, and will remain there in order that you may from time to time send news by them of aught that you have gathered. Remember that the safety of Wallace, and with it the future of Scotland, may depend upon your care and vigilance. I would myself have undertaken the task; but the Kerrs are now, I hear, in Ayr, and a chance meeting might ruin all; for whatever the truce between English and Scotch, they would assuredly keep no truce with me did they meet me. Mind, it is a great honour that I have done you in choosing you, and is a proof that I regard you as two of the shrewdest of my band, although the youngest among them.”
Greatly impressed with the importance of their mission, the lads promised to use their utmost vigilance to discover the intentions of the governor; and a few minutes later, Cluny being attired in his sister’s clothes, and looking, as Archie laughingly said, “a better looking girl than she was herself,” they started for Ayr, accompanied by two of their companions. They were to remain there until the conclusion of the council, but their companions would be relieved every six hours. Upon their way they procured two baskets, which they filled with eggs and chickens; and then, leaving their comrades a mile outside Ayr, fearlessly entered the town.
The council was to take place in a large wooden building some short distance outside the town, which was principally chosen because it was thought by the governor that the Scotch gentlemen would have less reluctance to meet him there than if they were asked to enter a city with a strong garrison of English.
The first day the lads succeeded in finding out nothing which could give any countenance to suspicion that treachery was intended. They