In Freedom's Cause
G. A. Henty
Part 3 out of 6
attempting to swim the river, one only succeeding in so gaining
the opposite side.
The men-at-arms defeated, Wallace and the chosen band under him,
who had been engaged with them, joined those who were attacking the
English and Welsh, now cooped up in the promontory. Flushed with
the success already gained the Scots were irresistible, and almost
every man who had crossed was either killed or drowned in attempting
to swim the river. No sooner had he seen that the success in this
quarter was secure than Wallace led a large number of his followers
across the bridge. Here the English, who still outnumbered his army,
and who had now all the advantage of position which had previously
been on the side of the Scots, might have defended the bridge, or
in good order have given him battle on the other side. The sight,
however, of the terrible disaster which had befallen nearly half
their number before their eyes, without their being able to render
them the slightest assistance, had completely demoralized them,
and as soon as the Scotch were seen to be crossing the bridge they
fled in terror. A hot pursuit was kept up by the fleet footed and
lightly armed Scots, and great numbers of fugitives were slain.
More than 20,000 English perished in the battle or flight, and the
remainder crossed the Border a mere herd of broken fugitives.
The Earl of Surrey, before riding off the field, committed the charge
of the Castle of Stirling to Sir Marmaduke de Twenge, promising him
that he would return to his relief within ten weeks at the utmost.
All the tents, wagons, horses, provisions, and stores of the English
fell into the hands of their enemies, and every Scotch soldier
obtained rich booty.
Cressingham was among the number killed. It was said by one
English historian, and his account has been copied by many others,
that Cressingham's body was flayed and his skin divided among the
Scots; but there appears no good foundation for the story, although
probably Cressingham, who had rendered himself peculiarly obnoxious
and hateful to the Scots, was hewn in pieces. But even were it
proved that the ill story is a true one, it need excite no surprise,
seeing the wholesale slaying, plundering, and burning which had
been carried on by the English, and that the Scottish prisoners
falling into their hands were often mutilated and tortured before
being executed and quartered. The English historians were fond of
crying out that the Scotch were a cruel and barbarous people whenever
they retaliated for the treatment which they suffered; but so far
from this being the case, it is probable that the Scotch, before
the first invasion of Edward, were a more enlightened and, for
their numbers, a more well-to-do people than the English. They had
for many years enjoyed peace and tranquillity, and under the long
and prosperous reign of Alexander had made great advances, while
England had been harassed by continuous wars and troubles at home
and abroad. Its warlike barons, when not engaged under its monarchs
in wars in Wales, Ireland, and France, occupied themselves in quarrels
with each other, or in struggles against the royal supremacy; and
although the higher nobles, with their mailclad followers, could
show an amount of chivalrous pomp unknown in Scotland, yet the
condition of the middle classes and of the agricultural population
was higher in Scotland than in England.
Archie, as one of the principal leaders of the victorious army,
received a share of the treasure captured in the camp sufficient to
repay the money which he had had for the strengthening of the Castle
of Aberfilly, and on the day following the battle he received
permission from Sir William to return at once, with the 250 retainers
which he had brought into the field, to complete the rebuilding of
the castle. In another three months this was completed, and stores
of arms and munition of all kinds collected.
Immediately after the defeat at Stirling Bridge, King Edward summoned
the Scottish nobles to join Brian Fitzallan, whom he appointed
governor of Scotland, with their whole forces, for the purpose of
putting down the rebellion. Among those addressed as his allies were
the Earls Comyn of Badenoch, Comyn of Buchan, Patrick of Dunbar,
Umfraville of Angus, Alexander of Menteith, Malise of Strathearn,
Malcolm of Lennox, and William of Sutherland, together with James
the Steward, Nicholas de la Haye, Ingelram de Umfraville, Richard
Fraser, and Alexander de Lindsay of Crawford. From this enumeration
it is clear that Wallace had still many enemies to contend with at
home as well as the force of England. Patrick of Dunbar, assisted
by Robert Bruce and Bishop Anthony Beck, took the field, but was
defeated. Wallace captured all the castles of the earl save Dunbar
itself, and forced him to fly to England; then the Scotch army
poured across the Border and retaliated upon the northern counties
for the deeds which the English had been performing in Scotland
for the last eight years. The country was ravaged to the very walls
of Durham and Carlisle, and only those districts which bought off
the invaders were spared. The title which had been bestowed upon
Wallace by a comparatively small number was now ratified by the
commonalty of the whole of Scotland; and associated with him was
the young Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, whose father had been the
only Scotch noble who had fought at Stirling, and it is notable
that in some of the documents of the time Wallace gives precedence
to Andrew Moray.
They proceeded to effect a military organization of the country,
dividing it up into districts, each with commanders and lieutenants.
Order was established and negotiations entered into for the mutual
safeguard of traders with the Hanse towns.
The nobles who ventured to oppose the authority of Wallace and his
colleague were punished in some cases by the confiscation of lands,
which were bestowed upon Sir Alexander Scrymgeour and other loyal
gentlemen, and these grants were recognized by Bruce when he became
king. In these deeds of grant Wallace and Moray, although acting as
governors of Scotland, state that they do so in the name of Baliol
as king, although a helpless captive in England. For a short time
Scotland enjoyed peace, save that Earl Percy responded to the raids
made by the Scots across the Border, by carrying fire and sword
through Annandale; and the English writers who complain of the
conduct of the Scots, have no word of reprobation for the proclamation
issued to the soldiers on crossing the Border, that they were free
to plunder where they chose, nor as to the men and women slain,
nor the villages and churches committed to the flames.
Chapter X The Battle of Falkirk
While Wallace was endeavouring to restore order in Scotland, Edward
was straining every nerve to renew his invasion. He himself was
upon the Continent, but he made various concessions to his barons
and great towns to induce them to aid him heartily, and issued writs
calling upon the whole nobility remaining at home, as they valued
his honour and that of England, to meet at York on January 20th,
"and proceed under the Earl of Surrey to repress and chastise the
audacity of the Scots." At the same time he despatched special
letters to those of the Scottish nobles who were not already in
England, commanding them to attend at the rendezvous.
The call upon the Scotch nobles was not generally responded to.
They had lost much of their power over their vassals, many of whom
had fought under Wallace in spite of the abstention of their lords.
It was clear, too, that if they joined the English, and another
defeat of the latter took place, their countrymen might no longer
condone their treachery, but their titles and estates might be
confiscated. Consequently but few of them presented themselves at
York. There, however, the English nobles gathered in force. The
Earls of Surrey, Gloucester, and Arundel; the Earl Mareschal and
the great Constable were there; Guido, son of the Earl of Warwick,
represented his father. Percy was there, John de Wathe, John de
Seagrave, and very many other barons, the great array consisting
of 2000 horsemen heavily armed, 1200 light horsemen, and 100,000
Sir Aymer de Vallance, Earl of Pembroke, and Sir John Sieward, son
of the Earl of March, landed with an army in Fife, and proceeded
to burn and waste. They were met by a Scotch force under Wallace
in the forest of Black Ironside, and were totally defeated.
Surrey's army crossed the Border, raised the siege of Roxburgh,
and advanced as far as Kelso. Wallace did not venture to oppose
so enormous a force, but wasted the country on every side so that
they could draw no provisions from it, and Surrey was forced to
fall back to Berwick; this town was being besieged by a Scottish
force, which retired at his approach. Here the English army halted
upon receipt of orders from Edward to wait his coming. He had hastily
patched up a peace with France, and, having landed at Sandwich,
summoned the parliament, and on the 27th of May issued writs to
as many as 154 of his great barons to meet him at Roxburgh on the
24th of June. Here 3000 cavalry, men and horses clothed in complete
armour; 4000 lighter cavalry, the riders being armed in steel but
the horses being uncovered; 500 splendidly mounted knights and
men-at-arms from Gascony; and at least 80,000 infantry assembled
together, with abundance of materials and munition of war of all
kinds. This huge army marched from Roxburgh, keeping near the coast,
receiving provisions from a fleet which sailed along beside them.
But in spite of this precaution it was grievously straitened, and
was delayed for a month near Edinburgh, as Wallace so wasted the
country that the army were almost famished, and by no efforts were
they able to bring on a battle with the Scots, whose rapid marches
and intimate acquaintance with the country baffled all the efforts
of the English leaders to force on an action.
Edward was about to retreat, being unable any longer to subsist his
army, when the two Scottish Earls of Dunbar and Angus sent news to
the king that Wallace with his army was in Falkirk forest, about
six miles away, and had arranged to attack the camp on the following
morning. The English at once advanced and that evening encamped at
Linlithgow, and the next morning moved on against the Scots.
Late in the evening Archie's scouts brought in the news to Wallace
that the English army was within three miles, and a consultation
was at once held between the leaders. Most of them were in favour
of a retreat; but Comyn of Badenoch, who had lately joined Wallace,
and had been from his rank appointed to the command of the cavalry,
with some of his associates, urged strongly the necessity for
fighting, saying that the men would be utterly dispirited at such
continual retreats, and that with such immensely superior cavalry
the English would follow them up and destroy them. To these arguments
Wallace, Sir John Grahame, and Sir John Stewart, yielded their own
opinions, and prepared to fight. They took up their position so
that their front was protected by a morass, and a fence of stakes
and ropes was also fixed across so as to impede the advance or
retreat of the English cavalry. The Scotch army consisted almost
entirely of infantry. These were about a third the number of those
of the English, while Comyn's cavalry were a thousand strong.
The infantry were formed in three great squares or circles, the
front rank kneeling and the spears all pointing outwards. In the
space between these squares were placed the archers, under Sir John
The English army was drawn up in three divisions, the first commanded
by the EarI Marechal, the Earl of Lincoln and Hereford; the second
by Beck, the warlike Bishop of Durham, and Sir Ralph Basset;
the third by the king himself. The first two divisions consisted
almost entirely of knights and men-at-arms; the third, of archers
Wallace's plan of battle was that the Scottish squares should first
receive the brunt of the onslaught of the enemy, and that while
the English were endeavouring to break these the Scotch cavalry,
which were drawn up some distance in the rear, should fall upon
them when in a confused mass, and drive them against the fence or
into the morass.
The first division of the English on arriving at the bog made a
circuit to the west. The second division, seeing the obstacle which
the first had encountered, moved round to the east, and both fell
upon the Scottish squares. The instant they were seen rounding
the ends of the morass, the traitor Comyn, with the whole of the
cavalry, turned rein and fled from the field, leaving the infantry
alone to support the whole brunt of the attack of the English. So
impetuous was the charge of the latter that Sir John Stewart and
his archers were unable to gain the shelter of the squares, and
he was, with almost all his men, slain by the English men-at-arms.
Thus the spearmen were left entirely to their own resources.
Encouraged by Wallace, Grahame, Archie Forbes, and their other
leaders, the Scottish squares stood firmly, and the English cavalry
in vain strove to break the hedge of spears. Again and again the
bravest of the chivalry of England tried to hew a way through. The
Scots stood firm and undismayed, and had the battle lain between
them and the English cavalry, the day would have been theirs. But
presently the king, with his enormous body of infantry, arrived on
the ground, and the English archers and slingers poured clouds of
missiles into the ranks of the Scots; while the English spearmen,
picking up the great stones with which the ground was strewn,
hurled them at the front ranks of their foes. Against this storm
of missiles the Scottish squares could do nothing. Such armour
as they had was useless against the English clothyard arrows, and
thousands fell as they stood.
Again and again they closed up the gaps in their ranks, but at last
they could no longer withstand the hail of arrows and stones, to
which they could offer no return. Some of them wavered. The gaps
in the squares were no longer filled up, and the English cavalry,
who had been waiting for their opportunity, charged into the midst
of them. No longer was there any thought of resistance. The Scots
fled in all directions. Numbers were drowned by trying to swim the
river Carron, which ran close by. Multitudes were cut down by the
host of English cavalry.
Sir Archie Forbes was in the same square with Wallace, with a few
other mounted men. They dashed forward against the English as they
broke through the ranks of the spearmen, but the force opposed them
"It is of no use, Archie; we must retire. Better that than throw
away our lives uselessly. All is lost now."
Wallace shouted to the spearmen, who gallantly rallied round him,
and, keeping together in spite of the efforts of the English cavalry,
succeeded in withdrawing from the field. The other squares were
entirely broken and dispersed, and scarce a man of them escaped.
Accounts vary as to the amount of the slaughter, some English
writers placing it as double that of the army which Wallace could
possibly have brought into the field, seeing that the whole of the
great nobles stood aloof, and that Grahame, Stewart, and Macduff of
Fife were the only three men of noble family with him. All these
were slain, together with some 25,000 infantry.
Wallace with about 5000 men succeeded in crossing a ford of the
Carron, and the English spread themselves over the country. The
districts of Fife, Clackmannan, Lanark, Ayr, and all the surrounding
country were wasted and burnt, and every man found put to the sword.
The Scotch themselves in retreating destroyed Stirling and Perth,
and the English found the town of St. Andrew's deserted, and burnt
it to the ground.
No sooner had Wallace retreated than he divided his force into
small bands, which proceeded in separate directions, driving off the
cattle and destroying all stores of grain, so that in a fortnight
after the battle of Falkirk the English army were again brought
to a stand by shortness of provisions, and were compelled to fall
back again with all speed to the mouth of the Forth, there to obtain
provisions from their ships. As they did so Wallace reunited his
bands, and pressed hard upon them. At Linlithgow he fell upon their
rear and inflicted heavy loss, and so hotly did he press them that
the great army was obliged to retreat rapidly across the Border,
and made no halt until it reached the fortress of Carlisle.
That it was compulsion alone which forced Edward to make his
speedy retreat we may be sure from the fact that after the victory
of Dunbar he was contented with nothing less than a clean sweep
of Scotland to its northern coast, and that he repeated the same
process when, in the year following the battle of Falkirk, he again
returned with a mighty army. Thus decisive as was the battle of
Falkirk it was entirely abortive in results.
When the English had crossed the Border, Wallace assembled the few
gentlemen who were still with him, and announced his intention of
resigning the guardianship of Scotland, and of leaving the country.
The announcement was received with exclamations of surprise and
"Surely, Sir William," Archie exclaimed, "you cannot mean it. You
are our only leader; in you we have unbounded confidence, and in
none else. Had it not been for the treachery of Comyn the field of
Falkirk would have been ours, for had the horse charged when the
English were in confusion round our squares they had assuredly been
defeated. Moreover, your efforts have retrieved that disastrous
field, and have driven the English across the Border."
"My dear Archie," Wallace said, "it is because I am the only leader
in whom you have confidence that I must needs go. I had vainly hoped
that when the Scottish nobles saw what great things the commonalty
were able to do, and how far, alone and unaided, they had cleared
Scotland of her tyrants, they would have joined us with their
vassals; but you see it is not so. The successes that I have gained
have but excited their envy against me. Of them all only Grahame,
Stewart, and Macduff stood by my side, while all the great earls
and barons either held aloof or were, like Bruce, in the ranks of
Edward's army, or like Comyn and his friends, joined me solely to
betray me. I am convinced now that it is only a united Scotland can
resist the power of England, and it is certain that so long as I
remain here Scotland never can be united. Of Bruce I have no longer
any hope; but if I retire Comyn may take the lead, and many at
least of the Scottish nobles will follow him. Had we but horsemen
and archers to support our spearmen, I would not fear the issue;
but it is the nobles alone who can place mounted men-at-arms in
the field. Of bowmen we must always be deficient, seeing that our
people take not naturally to this arm as do the English; but with
spearmen to break the first shock of English chivalry, and with
horsemen to charge them when in confusion, we may yet succeed, but
horsemen we shall never get so long as the nobles hold aloof. It
is useless to try and change my decision, my friends. Sore grief
though it will be to me to sheathe my sword and to stand aloof
when Scotland struggles for freedom, I am convinced that only by my
doing so has Scotland a chance of ultimate success in the struggle.
Do not make it harder for me by your pleadings. I have thought long
over this, and my mind is made up. My heart is well nigh broken by
the death of my dear friend and brother in arms, Sir John Grahame,
and I feel able to struggle no longer against the jealousy and
hostility of the Scottish nobles."
Wallace's hearers were all in tears at his decision, but they felt
that there was truth in his words, that the Scottish nobles were
far more influenced by feelings of personal jealousy and pique than
by patriotism, and that so long as Wallace remained the guardian
of Scotland they would to a man side with the English. The next day
Wallace assembled all his followers, and in a few words announced
his determination, and the reasons which had driven him to take
it. He urged them to let no feelings of resentment at the treatment
he had experienced, or any wrath at the lukewarmness and treachery
which had hitherto marked the Scottish nobles, overcome their feeling
of patriotism, but to follow these leaders should they raise the
banner of Scotland, as bravely and devotedly as they had followed
Then he bade them farewell, and mounting his horse rode to the
seacoast and passed over to France.
Although he had retired from Scotland, Wallace did not cease from
war against the English; but being warmly received by the French
king fought against them both by sea and land, and won much renown
among the French.
After returning to England, Edward, finding that the Scottish leaders
still professed to recognize Baliol as king, sent him to the pope
at Rome, having first confiscated all his great possessions in
England and bestowed them upon his own nephew, John of Brittany;
and during the rest of his life Baliol lived in obscurity in Rome.
A portion of the Scotch nobles assembled and chose John Comyn of
Badenoch and John de Soulis as guardians of the kingdom. In the
autumn of the following year Edward again assembled a great army
and moved north, but it was late; and in the face of the approaching
winter, and the difficulty of forage, many of the barons refused
to advance. Edward himself marched across the Border; but seeing
that the Scots had assembled in force, and that at such a season
of the year he could not hope to carry his designs fully into
execution, he retired without striking a blow. Thereupon the castle
of Stirling, which was invested by the Scots, seeing no hope of
relief, surrendered, and Sir William Oliphant was appointed governor.
The next spring Edward again advanced with an army even greater
than that with which he had before entered Scotland. With him were
Alexander of Baliol, son of the late king, who was devoted to the
English; Dunbar, Fraser, Ross, and other Scottish nobles. The vast
army first laid siege to the little castle of Carlaverock, which,
although defended by but sixty men, resisted for some time the
assaults of the whole army, but was at last captured. The Scots
fell back as Edward advanced, renewing Wallace's tactics of wasting
the country, and Edward could get no further than Dumfries. Here,
finding the enormous difficulties which beset him, he made a pretence
of yielding with a good grace to the entreaties of the pope and the
King of France that he would spare Scotland; he retired to England
and disbanded his army, having accomplished nothing in the campaign
save the capture of Carlaverock.
The following summer he again advanced with the army, this time
supported by a fleet of seventy ships. The Scots resorted to their
usual strategy, and, when winter came, the invaders had penetrated
no further than the Forth. Edward remained at Linlithgow for a
time, and then returned to England. Sir Simon Fraser, who had been
one of the leaders of the English army at Carlaverock, now imitated
Comyn's example, and, deserting the English cause, joined his
The greater part of the English army recrossed the Border, and the
Scots captured many of the garrisons left in the towns. Sir John
Seagrave next invaded Scotland with from 20,000 to 30,000 men, mostly
cavalry. They reached the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, when Comyn
and Fraser advanced against them with 8000 men, chiefly infantry.
The English army were advancing in three divisions, in order
better to obtain provisions and forage. After a rapid night march
the Scotch came upon one of them, commanded by Seagrave in person;
and conceiving himself sufficiently strong to defeat the Scots unaided
by any of the other divisions, Sir John Seagrave immediately gave
As at Falkirk, the English cavalry were unable to break through
the Scottish pikes. Great numbers were killed or taken prisoners,
Seagrave himself being severely wounded and captured, with
twenty distinguished knights, thirty esquires, and many soldiers.
Scarcely was the battle over when the second English division, even
stronger than the first, arrived on the field. Encumbered by their
prisoners, the Scots were at a disadvantage; and fearing to be attacked
by these in the rear while engaged in front, they slaughtered the
greater portion of the prisoners, and arming the camp followers,
prepared to resist the English onslaught. This failed as the first
had done; the cavalry were defeated with great loss by the spearmen,
and many prisoners taken -- among them Sir Ralph Manton.
The third English division now appeared; and the Scots, worn out
by their long march and the two severe conflicts they had endured,
were about to fly from the field when their leaders exhorted them
to one more effort. The second batch of prisoners were slaughtered,
and the pikemen again formed line to resist the English charge.
Again were the cavalry defeated, Sir Robert Neville, their leader,
slain, with many others, and the whole dispersed and scattered.
Sir Robert Manton, who was the king's treasurer, had had a quarrel
with Fraser, when the latter was in Edward's service, regarding
his pay; and Fraser is said by some historians to have now revenged
himself by slaying his prisoner. Other accounts, however, represent
Manton as having escaped.
The slaughter of the prisoners appears, although cruel, to have
been unavoidable; as the Scots, having before them a well appointed
force fully equal to their own in number, could not have risked
engaging, with so large a body of prisoners in their rear. None of
the knights or other leaders were slain, these being subsequently
exchanged or ransomed, as we afterwards find them fighting in the
Seeing by this defeat that a vast effort was necessary to conquer
Scotland, King Edward advanced in the spring of 1303 with an army
of such numbers that the historians of the time content themselves
with saying that "it was great beyond measure." It consisted of
English, Welsh, Irish, Gascons, and Savoyards. One division, under
the Prince of Wales, advanced by the west coast; that of the king,
by the east; and the two united at the Forth. Without meeting any
serious resistance the great host marched north through Perth and
Dundee to Brechin, where the castle, under the charge of Sir Thomas
Maille, resisted for twenty days; and it was only after the death
of the governor that it surrendered.
The English then marched north through Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray
into Caithness, carrying utter destruction everywhere; towns and
hamlets, villages and farmhouses were alike destroyed; crops were
burned, forests and orchards cut down. Thus was the whole of Scotland
wasted; and even the rich abbeys of Abberbredok and Dunfermline,
the richest and most famous in Scotland, were destroyed, and the
whole levelled to the ground. The very fields were as far as possible
injured -- the intention of Edward being, as Fordun says, to blot
out the people, and to reduce the land to a condition of irrecoverable
devastation, and thus to stamp out for ever any further resistance
During the three years which had elapsed since the departure
of Wallace, Archie had for the most part remained quietly in his
castle, occupying himself with the comfort and wellbeing of his
vassals. He had, each time the English entered Scotland, taken the
field with a portion of his retainers, in obedience to the summons
of Comyn. The latter was little disposed to hold valid the grants
made by Wallace, especially in the case of Archie Forbes, the Kerrs
being connections of his house; but the feeling of the people in
general was too strongly in favour of the companion of Wallace for
him to venture to set it aside, especially as the castle could not
be captured without a long continued siege. Archie and many of the
nobles hostile to the claims of Comyn obeyed his orders, he being
the sole possible leader, at present, of Scotland. Edward, however,
had left them no alternative, since he had, in order to induce
the English nobles to follow him, formally divided among them the
lands of the whole of the Scotch nobles, save those actually fighting
in his ranks.
Archie was now nearly three-and-twenty, and his frame had fully
borne out the promise of his youth. He was over the average height,
but appeared shorter from the extreme breadth of his shoulders;
his arms were long and sinewy, and his personal strength immense.
From the time of his first taking possession of Aberfilly he had
kept a party of men steadily engaged in excavating a passage from
the castle towards a wood a mile distant. The ground was soft and
offered but few obstacles, but the tunnel throughout its whole
length had to be supported by massive timbers. Wood, however, was
abundant, and the passage had by this time been completed. Whenever,
from the length of the tunnel, the workmen began to suffer from
want of air, ventilation was obtained by running a small shaft
up to the surface; in this was placed a square wooden tube of six
inches in diameter, round which the earth was again filled in -- a
few rapidly growing plants and bushes being planted round the
orifice to prevent its being noticed by any passerby.
Chapter XI Robert The Bruce
At the last great invasion by Edward, Archie did not take the field,
seeing that Comyn, in despair of opposing so vast a host, did not
call out the levies. Upon the approach of the English army under
the Prince of Wales he called the whole of his tenants into the
castle. Great stores of provisions had already been collected. The
women and children were sent away up into the hills, where provisions
had also been garnered, and the old men and boys accompanied them.
As the Prince of Wales passed north, bands from his army spreading
over the country destroyed every house in the district. Archie was
summoned to surrender, but refused to do so; and the prince, being
on his way to join his father on the Forth, after himself surveying
the hold, and judging it far too strong to be carried without
a prolonged siege, marched forward, promising on his return to
destroy it. Soon afterwards Archie received a message that Wallace
had returned. He at once took with him fifty men, and leaving the
castle in charge of Sandy Graham, with the rest of his vassals, two
hundred and fifty in number, he rejoined his former leader. Many
others gathered round Wallace's standard; and throughout Edward's
march to the north and his return to the Forth Wallace hung upon
his flanks, cutting off and slaying great numbers of the marauders,
and striking blows at detached bands wherever these were in numbers
not too formidable to be coped with.
Stirling was now the only great castle which remained in the hands
of the Scotch, and King Edward prepared to lay siege to this. Save
for the band of Wallace there was no longer any open resistance in
the field. A few holds like those of Archie Forbes still remained
in the hands of their owners, their insignificance, or the time
which would be wasted in subduing them, having protected them from
siege. None of the nobles now remained in arms.
Bruce had for a short time taken the field; but had, as usual,
hastened to make his peace with Edward. Comyn and all his adherents
surrendered upon promise of their lives and freedom, and that they
should retain their estates, subject to a pecuniary fine. All the
nobles of Scotland were included in this capitulation, save a few
who were condemned to suffer temporary banishment. Sir William
Wallace alone was by name specially exempted from the surrender.
Stirling Castle was invested on the 20th of April, 1304, and for
seventy days held out against all the efforts of Edward's army.
Warlike engines of all kinds had been brought from England for
the siege. The religious houses of St. Andrews, Brechin, and other
churches were stripped of lead for the engines. The sheriffs of
London, Lincoln, York, and the governor of the Tower were ordered
to collect and forward all the mangonels, quarrels, and bows and
arrows they could gather; and for seventy days missiles of all
kinds, immense stones, leaden balls, and javelins were rained upon
the castle; and Greek fire -- a new and terrible mode of destruction
-- was also used in the siege. But it was only when their provisions
and other resources were exhausted that the garrison capitulated;
and it was found that the survivors of the garrison which had
defended Stirling Castle for upwards of three months against the
whole force of England numbered, including its governor, Sir William
Oliphant, and twenty-four knights and gentlemen, but a hundred and
twenty soldiers, two monks, and thirteen females.
During the siege Wallace had kept the field, but Archie had, at
his request, returned to his castle, which being but a day's march
from Stirling, might at any moment be besieged. Several times,
indeed, parties appeared before it, but Edward's hands were too
full, and he could spare none of the necessary engines to undertake
such a siege; and when Stirling at length fell he and his army
were in too great haste to return to England to undertake another
prolonged siege, especially as Aberfilly, standing in a retired
position, and commanding none of the principal roads, was a hold
of no political importance.
A short time afterwards, to Archie's immense grief, Sir William
Wallace was betrayed into the hands of the English. Several
Scotchmen took part in this base act, the principal being Sir John
Menteith. Late historians, in their ardour to whitewash those who
have for ages been held up to infamy, have endeavoured to show that
Sir John Menteith was not concerned in the matter; but the evidence
is overwhelming the other way. Scotch opinion at the time, and
for generations afterwards, universally imputed the crime to him.
Fordun, who wrote in the reign of Robert Bruce, Bowyer, and Langtoft,
all Scotch historians, say that it was he who betrayed Wallace, and
their account is confirmed by contemporary English writings. The
Chronicle of Lanercost, the Arundel MSS., written about the year
1320, and the Scala Chronica, all distinctly say that Wallace was
seized by Sir John Menteith; and finally, Sir Francis Palgrave has
discovered in the memoranda of the business of the privy council
that forty marks were bestowed upon the young man who spied out
Wallace, sixty marks were divided among some others who assisted
in his capture, and that to Sir John Menteith was given land of
the annual value of one hundred pounds -- a very large amount in
The manner in which Wallace was seized is uncertain; but he was at
once handed by Sir John Menteith to Sir John Seagrave, and carried
by him to London. He was taken on horseback to Westminster, the
mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen, with a great number of horse and
foot, accompanying him. There the mockery of a trial was held,
and he was in one day tried, condemned, and executed. He defended
himself nobly, urging truly that, as a native born Scotsman, he
had never sworn fealty or allegiance to England, and that he was
perfectly justified in fighting for the freedom of his country.
Every cruelty attended his execution. He was drawn through the
streets at the tails of horses; he was hung for some time by a
halter, but was taken down while yet alive; he was mutilated and
disembowelled, his head then cut off, his body divided in four,
his head impaled over London Bridge, and his quarters distributed
to four principal towns in Scotland. Such barbarities were common
at executions in the days of the Norman kings, who have been
described by modern writers as chivalrous monarchs.
A nobler character than Wallace is not to be found in history. Alone,
a poor and landless knight, by his personal valour and energy he
aroused the spirit of his countrymen, and in spite of the opposition
of the whole of the nobles of his country banded the people in
resistance against England, and for a time wrested all Scotland from
the hands of Edward. His bitter enemies the English were unable to
adduce any proofs that the epithets of ferocious and bloodthirsty,
with which they were so fond of endowing him, had even a shadow
of foundation, and we may rather believe the Scotch accounts that
his gentleness and nobility of soul were equal to his valour. Of
his moderation and wisdom when acting as governor of Scotland there
can be no doubt, while the brilliant strategy which first won the
battle of Stirling, and would have gained that of Falkirk had not
the treachery and cowardice of the cavalry ruined his plans, show
that under other circumstances he would have taken rank as one of
the greatest commanders of his own or any age.
He first taught his countrymen, and indeed Europe in general, that
steady infantry can repel the assaults even of mailclad cavalry.
The lesson was followed at Bannockburn by Bruce, who won under
precisely the same circumstances as those under which Wallace had
been defeated, simply because at the critical moment he had 500
horse at hand to charge the disordered mass of the English, while
at Falkirk Wallace's horse, who should have struck the blow, were
galloping far away from the battlefield. Nor upon his English
conquerors was the lesson lost, for at Cressy, when attacked by
vastly superior numbers, Edward III dismounted his army, and ordered
them to fight on foot, and the result gave a death blow to that
mailed chivalry which had come to be regarded as the only force
worth reckoning in a battle. The conduct of Edward to Wallace,
and later to many other distinguished Scotchmen who fell into his
hands, is a foul blot upon the memory of one of the greatest of
the kings of England.
Edward might now well have believed that Scotland was crushed for
ever. In ten years no less than twelve great armies had marched
across the Border, and twice the whole country had been ravaged
from sea to sea, the last time so effectually, that Edward had
good ground for his belief that the land would never again raise
its head from beneath his foot.
He now proceeded, as William of Normandy after Hastings had done,
to settle his conquest, and appointed thirty-one commissioners, of
whom twenty-one were English and ten so called Scotch, among them
Sir John Menteith, to carry out his ordinances. All the places of
strength were occupied by English garrisons. The high officers and
a large proportion of the justiciaries and sheriffs were English,
and Edward ruled Scotland from Westminster as he did England.
Among the commissioners was Robert Bruce, now through the death
of his father, Lord of Annandale and Carrick; and Edward addressed
a proclamation to him, headed, "To our faithful and loyal Robert
de Bruce, Earl of Carrick, and all others who are in his company,
greeting;" and went on to say that he possessed the king's fullest
confidence. But though Scotland lay prostrate, the spirit of
resistance yet lingered in the hearts of the commonalty. Although
conquered now the memory of their past success still inspired them,
but until some leader presented himself none could stir. It was in
August that Wallace had been executed. Archie had received several
summonses from the English governors of Stirling and Lanark to
come in and do homage to Edward, but he had resolutely declined,
and the task of capturing his castle was too heavy a one to
be undertaken by any single garrison; still he saw that the time
must come, sooner or later, when he would have to choose between
surrender and death. When matters settled down it was certain that
a great effort would be made to root out the one recalcitrant south
of the Forth. For some time he remained gloomy and thoughtful,
a mood most unusual to him, and his mother, who was watching him
anxiously, was scarcely surprised when one day he said to her:
"Mother, I must leave you for a time. Matters can no longer continue
as they are. Surrender to the English I will not, and there remains
for me but to defend this castle to the last, and then to escape
to France; or to cross thither at once, and enter the service of
the French king, as did Wallace. Of these courses I would fain take
the latter, seeing that the former would bring ruin and death upon
our vassals, who have ever done faithful service when called upon,
and whom I would not see suffer for my sake. In that case I should
propose that you should return and live quietly with Sir Robert
Gordon until times change."
Dame Forbes agreed with her son, for she had long felt that further
resistance would only bring ruin upon him.
"There is yet one other course, mother, and that I am about to take;
it is well nigh a desperate one, and my hopes of success are small,
yet would I attempt it before I leave Scotland and give Aberfilly
back again to the Kerrs. Ask me not what it is, for it were best
that if it fail you should not know of it. There is no danger in
the enterprise, but for a month I shall be absent. On my return
you shall hear my final resolve."
Having attired himself as a lowland farmer, Archie proceeded to
Edinburgh, and there took ship for London; here he took lodgings
at an inn, which he had been told in Edinburgh was much frequented
by Scotchmen who had to go to London on business. His first care
was to purchase the garments of an English gentleman of moderate
means, so that he could pass through the streets without attracting
He was greatly impressed with the bustle and wealth of London.
"It is wonderful," he said to himself, "that we Scots, who were
after all but an army of peasants, could for nigh ten years have
supported a war against such a country as this, and it seems madness
to adventure farther in that way. If my present errand fails I will
assuredly hold firm to my resolve and seek a refuge in France."
Archie ascertained that Robert the Bruce lodged at Westminster,
and that great gaieties were taking place at the court for joy at
the final termination of hostilities with Scotland, now secured by
the execution of Wallace. He despatched a letter to the earl by
a messenger from the inn, saying that one who had formerly known
him in Scotland desired earnestly to speak to him on matters of
great import, and begging him to grant a private interview with him
at his lodging at as early an hour as might be convenient to him.
The man returned with a verbal reply, that the earl would see the
writer at his lodging at nine o'clock on the following morning.
At the appointed time Archie presented himself at the house inhabited
by Bruce. To the request of the earl's retainer for his name and
business he replied that his name mattered not, but that he had
received a message from the earl appointing him a meeting at that
Two minutes later he was ushered into the private cabinet of Robert
Bruce. The latter was seated writing, and looked up at his unknown
"Do you remember me, Sir Robert Bruce?" Archie asked.
"Methinks I know your face, sir," the earl replied, "but I cannot
recall where I have seen it."
"It is five years since," Archie said, "and as that time has changed
me from a youth into a man I wonder not that my face has escaped
"I know you now!" the earl exclaimed, rising suddenly from his
seat. "You are Sir Archibald Forbes?"
"I am," Archie replied, "and I have come now on the same errand I
came then -- the cause of our country. The English think she is
dead, but, though faint and bleeding, Scotland yet lives; but there
is one man only who can revive her, and that man is yourself."
"Your mission is a vain one," Bruce replied. "Though I honour you,
Sir Archibald, for your faith and constancy; though I would give
much, ay all that I have, were my record one of as true patriotism
and sacrifice as yours, yet it were madness to listen to you. Have
I not," he asked bitterly, "earned the hatred of my countrymen?
Have I not three times raised my standard only to lower it again
without striking a blow? Did I not fight by Edward at the field
of Falkirk? Ah!" he said in a changed tone, "never shall I forget
the horror which I felt as I passed over the field strewn with
Scottish corpses. Truly my name must be loathed in Scotland; and
yet, Sir Archibald, irresolute and false as I have hitherto proved
myself, believe me, I love Scotland, the land of my mother."
"I believe you, sir," Archie said, "and it is therefore that I
implore you to listen to me. You are now our only possible leader,
our only possible king. Baliol is a captive at Rome, his son a courtier
of Edward. Wallace is dead. Comyn proved weak and incapable, and
was unable to rally the people to offer any opposition to Edward's
last march. Scotland needs a leader strong and valiant as Wallace,
capable of uniting around him a large body, at least, of the Scotch
nobles, and having some claim to her crown. You know not, sir, how
deep is the hatred of the English. The last terrible incursion of
Edward has spread that feeling far and wide, and while before it was
but in a few counties of the lowlands that the flame of resistance
really burnt, this time, believe me, that all Scotland, save perhaps
the Comyns and their adherents, would rise at the call. I say not
that success would at once attend you, for, forgive me for saying
so, the commonalty would not at first trust you; but when they saw
that you were fighting for Scotland as well as for your own crown,
that you had, by your action, definitely and for ever broken with
the English, and had this time entered heart and soul into the cause,
I am sure they would not hold back. Your own vassals of Carrick and
Annandale are a goodly array in themselves and the young Douglas
might be counted on to bring his dalesmen to your banner. There
are all the lords who have favoured your cause, and so stood aloof
from Comyn. You will have a good array to commence with; but above
all, even if unsuccessful at first, all Scotland would come in
time to regard you as her king and champion. Resistance will never
cease, for even Wallace was ever able to assemble bands and make
head against the English, so will it be with you, until at last
freedom is achieved, and you will reign a free king over a free
Scotland, and your name will be honoured to all time as the champion
and deliverer of our country. Think not, sir," he went on earnestly
as Bruce paced up and down the little room, "that it is too late.
Other Scotchmen, Fraser and many others, who have warred in the
English ranks, have been joyfully received when at length they
drew sword for Scotland. Only do you stand forth as our champion,
believe me, that the memory of former weakness will be forgotten
in the admiration of present patriotism."
For two or three minutes Bruce strode up and down the room; then
he paused before Archie.
"By heavens," he said, "I will do it! I am not so sanguine as you,
I do not believe that success can ever finally attend the enterprise,
but, be that as it may, I will attempt it, win or die. The memory
of Robert Bruce shall go down in the hearts of Scotchmen as one
who, whatever his early errors, atoned for them at last by living
and dying in her cause. My sisters and brothers have long urged me
to take such a step, but I could never bring myself to brave the
power of England. Your words have decided me. The die is cast.
Henceforward Robert Bruce is a Scotchman. And now, Sir Archibald,
what think you my first step should be?"
"The English in Scotland are lulled in security, and a sudden blow
upon them will assuredly at first be wholly successful. You must
withdraw suddenly and quietly from here."
"It is not easy to do so," Bruce replied. "Although high in favour
with Edward, he has yet some suspicions of me -- not," he said
bitterly, "without just cause -- and would assuredly arrest me did
he know that I were going north. My only plan will be to appear
at court as usual, while I send down relays of horses along the
northern road. You will ride with me, Sir Archie, will you not?
But I must tell you that I have already, in some degree, prepared
for a movement in Scotland. Comyn and I have met and have talked
over the matter. Our mutual claims to the crown stood in the way,
but we have agreed that one shall yield to the other, and that
whoso takes the crown shall give all his lands to be the property
of the other, in consideration of his waiving his claim and giving
his support. This we have agreed to, and have signed a mutual bond
to that effect, and though it is not so writ down we have further
agreed that I shall have the crown and that Comyn shall take Carrick
and Annandale; but this was for the future, and we thought not of
any movement for the present.''
"It were a bad bargain, sir," Archie said gravely; "and one that I
trust will never be carried out. The Comyns are even now the most
powerful nobles in Scotland, and with Carrick and Annandale in
addition to their own broad lands, would be masters of Scotland,
let who would be called her king. Did he displease them, they
could, with their vassals and connections, place a stronger army
in the field than that which the king could raise; and could at any
moment, did he anger them, call in the English to his aid, and so
again lay Scotland under the English yoke."
"I will think of it, Sir Archie. There is much in what you say, and
I sorely doubt the Comyns. Henceforth do not fear to give me your
advice freely. You possessed the confidence of Wallace, and have
shown yourself worthy of it. Should I ever free Scotland and win
me a kingdom, believe me you will not find Robert Bruce ungrateful.
I will give orders tomorrow for the horses to be privately
sent forward, so that at any hour we can ride if the moment seem
propitious; meanwhile I pray you to move from the hostelry in the
city, where your messenger told me you were staying, to one close
at hand, in order that I may instantly communicate with you in case
of need. I cannot ask you to take up your abode here, for there
are many Scotchmen among my companions who might know your face,
or who, not knowing, might make inquiry of me as to your family;
but among the crowd of strangers who on some business or other at
the court throng the inns of the city of Westminster, one figure
more or less would excite neither question nor comment."
That afternoon Archie took up his abode at Westminster. A week
later one of Bruce's retainers came in just as Archie was about to
retire to bed, and said that the Earl of Carrick wished immediately
to see Master Forbes. Sir Archie had retained his own name while
dropping the title. He at once crossed, to Bruce's lodging.
"We must mount at once!" the earl exclaimed as he entered. "What
think you? I have but now received word from a friend, who is
a member of the council, to say that this afternoon a messenger
arrived from the false Comyn with a letter to the king, containing
a copy of the bond between us. Whether the coward feared the
consequences, or whether he has all along acted in treachery with
the view of bringing me into disgrace, and so ridding himself of
a rival, I know not; but the result is the same, he has disclosed
our plans to Edward. A council was hastily called, and it has but
just separated. It is to meet again in the morning, and the king
himself will be present. I am to be summoned before it, being, as
it is supposed, in ignorance of the betrayal of my plans. It was
well for me that Edward himself had pressing engagements, and was
unable to be present at the council. Had he been, prompt steps would
have been taken, and I should by this time be lying a prisoner in
the Tower. Even now I may be arrested at any moment. Have you aught
for which you wish to return to your inn?"
"No," Archie replied. "I have but a change of clothing there, which
is of no importance, and we had best lose not a moment's time. But
there is the reckoning to discharge."
"I will give orders," the earl said, "that it shall be discharged
in the morning. Now let us without a moment's delay make to the
stables and mount there. Here is a cloak and valise."
The earl struck a bell, and a retainer appeared.
"Allan, I am going out to pay a visit. Take these two valises to
the stable at once, and order Roderick to saddle the two bay horses
in the stalls at the end of the stables. Tell him to be speedy, for
I shall be with him anon. He is not bring them round here. I will
mount in the court."
Five minutes later Bruce and Archie, enveloped in thick cloaks
with hoods drawn over their faces, rode north from Westminster. At
first they went slowly, but as soon as they were out in the fields
they set spur to their horses and galloped on in the darkness.
The snow lay thick upon the ground, and the roads were entirely
"Farewell to London!" Bruce exclaimed. "Except as a prisoner I
shall never see it again. The die is cast this time, Sir Archie,
and for good; even if I would I can never draw back again. Comyn's
treachery has made my action irrevocable -- it is now indeed death
All night they rode without drawing rein, save that they once
changed horses where a relay had been provided. They had little
fear of pursuit, for even when Bruce's absence was discovered none
of his household would be able to say where he had gone, and some
time must elapse before the conviction that he had ridden for
Scotland, in such weather, would occur to the king. Nevertheless,
they travelled fast, and on the 10th of February entered Dumfries.
Chapter XII The Battle of Methven
Bruce had, during the previous week, sent messages saying to several
of his friends in Annandale and Carrick that he might at any time
be among them, and at Dumfries he found many of them prepared to
see him. The English justiciaries for the southern district of the
conquered kingdom were holding an assize, and at this most of the
nobles and principal men of that part were present. Among these
were, of course, many of Bruce's vassals; among them also was John
Comyn of Badenoch, who held large estates in Galloway, in virtue
of which he was now present.
As soon as the news that Bruce had arrived in the town spread, his
adherents and vassals there speedily gathered round him, and as,
accompanied by several of them, he went through the town he met
Comyn in the precincts of the Grey Friars. Concerning this memorable
meeting there has been great dispute among historians. Some have
charged Bruce with inviting Comyn to meet him, with the deliberate
intention of slaying him; others have represented the meeting as
accidental, and the slaying of Comyn as the result of an outburst
of passion on the part of Bruce; but no one who weighs the facts,
and considers the circumstances in which Comyn was placed, can feel
the least question that the latter is the true hypothesis.
Bruce, whose whole course shows him to have been a man who acted
with prudence and foresight, would have been nothing short of mad had
he, just at the time when it was necessary to secure the goodwill
of the whole of the Scotch nobles, chosen that moment to slay Comyn,
with whom were connected, by blood or friendship, the larger half
of the Scotch nobles. Still less, had he decided upon so suicidal
a course, would he have selected a sanctuary as the scene of the
deed. To slay his rival in such a place would be to excite against
himself the horror and aversion of the whole people, and to enlist
against him the immense authority and influence of the church.
Therefore, unless we should conclude that Bruce -- whose early
career showed him to be a cool and calculating man, and whose future
course was marked throughout with wisdom of the highest character
-- was suffering from an absolute aberration of intellect, we must
accept the account by those who represent the meeting as accidental,
and the slaying as the result of an outburst of passion provoked
by Comyn's treachery, as the correct one.
When Bruce saw Comyn approaching he bade his followers stop where
they were and advanced towards Comyn, who was astonished at his
"I would speak with you aside, John Comyn," Bruce said; and the
two withdrew into the church apart from the observation of others.
Then Bruce broke into a torrent of invective against Comyn for his
gross act of treachery in betraying him by sending to Edward a copy
of their agreement.
"You sought," he said, "to send me to the scaffold, and so clear
the way for yourself to the throne of Scotland."
Comyn, finding that dissimulation was useless, replied as hotly.
Those without could hear the voices of the angry men rise higher
and higher; then there was a silence, and Bruce hurried out alone.
"What has happened?" Archie Forbes exclaimed.
"I fear that I have slain Comyn," Bruce replied in an agitated
"Then I will make sure," Kirkpatrick, one of his retainers, said;
and accompanied by Lindsay and another of his companions he ran in
and completed the deed.
Scarcely was this done than Sir Robert Comyn, uncle of the earl,
ran up, and seeing what had taken place, furiously attacked Bruce
and his party. A fierce fray took place, and Robert Comyn and
several of his friends were slain.
"The die is cast now," Bruce said when the fray was over; "but
I would give my right hand had I not slain Comyn in my passion;
however, it is too late to hesitate now. Gather together, my
friends, all your retainers, and let us hurry at once to attack
In a few minutes Kirkpatrick brought together those who had
accompanied him and his companions to the town, and they at once
moved against the courthouse. The news of Bruce's arrival and of
the fray with the Comyns had already reached the justiciaries, and
with their retainers and friends they had made hasty preparations
for defence; but seeing that Bruce's followers outnumbered them,
and that a defence might cost them their lives, they held parley
and agreed to surrender upon Bruce promising to allow them to
depart at once for England. Half an hour later the English had left
Bruce called a council of his companions.
"My friends," he said, "we have been hurried into a terrible strife,
and deeply do I regret that by my own mad passion at the treachery
of Comyn I have begun it by an evil deed; but when I tell you of the
way in which that traitor sought to bring me to an English block,
you will somewhat absolve me for the deed, and will grant that,
unhappy and unfortunate as it was, my passion was in some degree
He then informed them of the bond into which he and Comyn had
entered, and of its betrayal by Comyn to Edward.
"Thus it is," he said, "that the deed has taken place, and it
is too late to mend it. We have before us a desperate enterprise,
and yet I hope that we may succeed in it. At any rate, this time
there can be no drawing back, and we must conquer or die. It was
certain in any case that Comyn and his party would oppose me, but
now their hostility will go to all lengths, while Edward will never
forgive the attack upon his justiciaries. Still we shall have some
breathing time. The king will not hear for ten days of events here,
and it will take him two months at least before he can assemble
an army on the Border, and Comyn's friends will probably do nought
till the English approach. However, let us hurry to Lochmaben
Castle; there we shall be safe from any sudden attack by Comyn's
friends in Galloway. First let us draw out papers setting forth
the cause of my enmity to Comyn, and of the quarrel which led to
his death, and telling all Scotchmen that I have now cut myself
loose for ever from England, and that I have come to free Scotland
and to win the crown which belongs to me by right, or to die in
Many of these documents being drawn out, messengers were despatched
with them to Bruce's friends throughout the country, and he and
his followers rode to Lochmaben.
Archie Forbes went north to his own estate, and at once gave
notice to his retainers to prepare to take the field, and to march
to Glasgow, which Bruce had named as the rendezvous for all well
disposed towards him. From time to time messages came from Bruce,
telling him that he was receiving many promises of support; the
whole of the vassals of Annandale and Carrick had assembled at
Lochmaben, where many small landowners with their retainers also
joined him. As soon as his force had grown to a point when he
need fear no interruption on his march toward Glasgow, Bruce left
Lochmaben. On his way he was joined by the first influential
nobleman who had espoused his cause; this was Sir James Douglas,
whose father, Sir William, had died in an English prison. At the
time of his capture his estates had been bestowed by Edward upon
Lord Clifford, and the young Douglas, then but a lad, had sought
refuge in France. After a while he had returned, and was living
with Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, who had been one of Wallace's
most active supporters.
The young Douglas, on receiving the news that Bruce was marching
north, at once mounted, rode off, and joined him. He was joyfully
received by Bruce, as not only would his own influence be great
among his father's vassals of Douglasdale, but his adhesion would
induce many others to join. Receiving news of Bruce's march,
Archie moved to Glasgow with his retainers. The English garrison
and adherents in Glasgow fled at his approach. Upon arriving there
Bruce solemnly proclaimed the independence of Scotland, and sent
out notices to all the nobles and gentry, calling upon them to join
Fortunately the Bishop of St. Andrews, and Wishart, Bishop of
Glasgow, another of Wallace's friends, at once declared strongly
for him, as did the Bishop of Moray and the Abbot of Scone. The
adhesion of these prelates was of immense importance to Bruce, as
to some extent the fact of their joining him showed that the church
felt no overwhelming indignation at the act of sacrilege which he
had committed, and enabled the minor clergy to advocate his cause
with their flocks.
Many of the great nobles hostile to the Comyn faction also joined
him; among these were the Earls of Athole, Lennox, Errol, and
Menteith; Christopher Seaton, Sir Simon Fraser, David Inchmartin,
Hugh de la Haye, Walter de Somerville, Robert Boyd, Robert Fleming,
David Barclay, Alexander Fraser, Sir Thomas Randolph, and Sir
Neil Campbell. Bruce's four brothers, Edward, Nigel, Thomas, and
Alexander, were, of course, with him. Bruce now moved from Glasgow
to Scone, and was there crowned King of Scotland on the 27th of
March, 1306, six weeks after his arrival at Dumfries. Since the
days of Malcolm Canmore the ceremony of placing the crown on the
head of the monarch had been performed by the representative of
the family of Macduff, the earls of Fife; the present earl was in
the service of the English; but his sister Isobel, wife of Comyn,
Earl of Buchan, rode into Scone with a train of followers upon the
day after the coronation, and demanded to perform the office which
was the privilege of the family. To this Bruce gladly assented,
seeing that many Scotchmen would hold the coronation to be irregular
from its not having been performed by the hereditary functionary, and
that as Isabel was the wife of Comyn of Buchan, her open adhesion
to him might influence some of that faction. Accordingly on the
following day the ceremony was again performed, Isobel of Buchan
placing the crown on Bruce's head, an act of patriotism for which
the unfortunate lady was afterwards to pay dearly. Thus, although
the great majority of the Scotch nobles still held aloof, Bruce was
now at the head of a considerable force, and he at once proceeded
to overrun the country. The numerous English who had come across
the Border, under the belief that Scotland was finally conquered,
or to take possession of lands granted them by Edward, were all
compelled either to take refuge in the fortified towns and castles
held by English garrisons, or to return hastily to England.
When the news of the proceedings at Dumfries and the general
rising in the south of Scotland reached Edward he was at the city
of Winchester. He had been lately making a sort of triumphant
passage through the country, and the unexpected news that Scotland
which he had believed crushed beyond all possibility of further
resistance was again in arms, is said for a time to have driven
him almost out of his mind with rage.
Not a moment was lost. Aylmer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, was at
once commissioned to proceed to Scotland, to "put down rebellion
and punish the rebels," the whole military array of the northern
counties was placed under his orders, and Clifford and Percy were
associated with him in the commission. Edward also applied to the
pope to aid him in punishing the sacrilegious rebels who had violated
the sanctuary of Dumfries. As Clement V was a native of Guienne,
and kept his court at Bordeaux within Edward's dominions, his
request was, of course, promptly complied with, and a bull issued,
instructing the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Carlisle to
excommunicate Bruce and his friends, and to place them and their
possessions under an interdict. It was now that the adhesion of
the Scottish prelates was of such vital consequence to Bruce. Had
the interdict been obeyed, the churches would have been closed,
all religious ceremonies suspended, the rites of the church would
have been refused even to dying men, and the dead would have been
buried without service in unconsecrated ground. So terrible a weapon
as this was almost always found irresistible, and its terrors had
compelled even the most powerful monarchs to yield obedience to
the pope's orders; but the Scotch prelates set the needs of their
country above the commands of the pope, and in spite of repeated bulls
the native clergy continued to perform their functions throughout
the whole struggle, and thus nullified the effect of the popish
King Edward was unable himself to lead his army against the Scots,
for he was now sixty-seven years old, and the vast fatigues and
exertions which he had undergone in the course of a life spent almost
continually in war had told upon him. He had partially lost the
use of his limbs, and was forced to travel in a carriage or litter;
but when he reached London from Winchester a grand ceremony was
held, at which the order of knighthood was conferred by the king
upon the Prince of Wales, and three hundred aspirants belonging to
the principal families of the country, and orders were given that
the whole military array of the kingdom should, in the following
spring, gather at Carlisle, where Edward himself would meet them
and accompany them to Scotland. The Earl of Pembroke, with Clifford
and Percy, lost no time in following the orders of Edward, and with
the military power of the northern counties marched into Scotland.
They advanced unopposed to the Forth, and crossing this river proceeded
towards Perth, near which town the Scottish army were gathered.
Archie Forbes, who stood very high in favour with Bruce, had urged
upon him the advantage of carrying out the tactics formerly adopted
by Wallace, and of compelling the enemy to fall back by cutting
off all food supplies, but Bruce would not, in this instance, be
guided by his counsel.
"When the king advances next spring with his great army, Sir Archie,
I will assuredly adopt the course which you point out, seeing
that we could not hope to withstand so great an array in a pitched
battle; but the case is different now. In the first place all the
castles and towns are in the hands of the English, and from them
Pembroke can draw such provision as he needs. In the second place
his force is not so superior to our own but that we may fight him
with a fair hope of victory; and whereas Wallace had never any
cavalry with him, save at Falkirk when they deserted him at the
beginning of the battle, we have a strong body of mounted men-at-arms,
the retainers of the nobles with me, therefore I do not fear to
give them battle in the open field."
In pursuance of this determination Bruce sent a challenge to Pembroke
to meet him with his army in the open field next day. Pembroke
accepted the challenge, and promised to meet his opponent on the
following morning, and the Scotch retired for the night to the
wood of Methven, near Perth. Here many of them set out on foraging
excursions, the knights laid aside their armour, and the army
prepared for sleep.
Archie Forbes was much dissatisfied at the manner in which Bruce had
hazarded all the fortunes of Scotland on a pitched battle, thereby
throwing away the great advantage which their superior mobility and
knowledge of the country gave to the Scots. He had disarmed like
the rest, and was sitting by a fire chatting with William Orr and
Andrew Macpherson, who, as they had been his lieutenants in the
band of lads he had raised seven years before, now occupied the
same position among his retainers, each having the command of a
hundred men. Suddenly one who had been wandering outside the lines
in search of food among the farmhouses ran hastily in, shouting
that the whole English army was upon them.
A scene of the utmost confusion took place. Bruce and his knights
hastily armed, and mounting their horses rode to meet the enemy.
There was no time to form ranks or to make any order of battle.
Archie sprang to his horse. He bade his lieutenants form the men
into a compact body and move forward, keeping the king's banner
ever in sight, and to cut their way to it whenever they saw it was
in danger. Then, followed by his two mounted squires, he rode after
the king. The contest of Methven can scarce be called a battle, for
the Scots were defeated before it began. Many, as has been said,
were away; great numbers of footmen instantly took flight and
dispersed in all directions. Here and there small bodies stood and
fought desperately, but being unsupported were overcome and slain.
The king with his knights fought with desperate bravery, spurring
hither and thither and charging furiously among the English
men-at-arms. Three times Bruce was unhorsed and as often remounted
by Sir Simon Fraser. Once he was so entirely cut off from his
companions by the desperation with which he had charged into the
midst of the English, that he was surrounded, struck from his horse,
and taken prisoner.
"The king is taken!" Archie Forbes shouted; "ride in, my lords,
and rescue him."
Most of the Scotch knights were so hardly pressed that they could
do nothing to aid the king; but Christopher Seaton joined Archie,
and the two knights charged into the midst of the throng of English
and cut their way to Bruce. Sir Philip Mowbray, who was beside
the captured monarch, was overthrown, and several others cut down.
Bruce leapt into his saddle again and the three for a time kept at
bay the circle of foemen; but such a conflict could have but one
end. Archie Forbes vied with the king in the strength and power of
his blows, and many of his opponents went down before him. There
was, however, no possibility of extricating themselves from the
mass of their foes, and Bruce, finding the conflict hopeless, was
again about to surrender when a great shout was heard, and a close
body of Scottish spearmen threw themselves into the ranks of the
English horse. Nothing could withstand the impetuosity of the
assault. The horsemen recoiled before the levelled spears, and the
pikemen, sweeping onward, surrounded the king and his companions.
"Well done, my brave fellows!" Archie cried; "now keep together in
a close body and draw off the field."
The darkness which had at first proved so disastrous to the Scots
was now favourable to them. The English infantry knew not what was
going on. The cavalry tried in vain to break through the ranks of
the spearmen, and these, keeping closely together, regained the
shelter of the wood, and drew off by way of Dunkeld and Killiecrankie
to the mountains of Athole. On their way they were joined by Edward
Bruce, the Earl of Athole, Sir Neil Campbell, Gilbert de la Haye,
and Douglas, and by many scattered footmen.
To his grief Bruce learned that Randolph, Inchmartin, Somerville,
Alexander Fraser, Hugh de la Haye, and others had been captured,
but the number killed had been small. When once safe from pursuit
a council was held. It was agreed at once that it was impossible
that so large a body could find subsistence in the mountains of
Athole, cooped up as they were by their foes. The lowlands swarmed
with the English; to the north was Badenoch, the district of their
bitter enemies the Comyns; while westward lay the territory of
the MacDougalls of Lorne, whose chieftain, Alexander, was a nephew
by marriage of the Comyn killed by Bruce, and an adherent of the
Beyond an occasional deer, and the fish in the lochs and streams,
the country afforded no means of subsistence, it was therefore
decided to disband the greater portion of the force, the knights
and nobles, with a few of their immediate retainers, alone remaining
with the king, while the main body dispersed and regained their
homes. This was done; but a few days later a messenger came saying
that the queen, with the wives of many of the gentlemen, had arrived
at Aberdeen and sought to join the king. Although an accession
of numbers was by no means desirable, and the hardships of such
a life immense for ladies to support, there was no other resource
but for them to join the party, as they would otherwise have speedily
fallen into the hands of the English. Therefore Bruce, accompanied
by some of his followers, rode to Aberdeen and escorted the queen
and ladies to his mountain retreat.
It was a strange life that Bruce, his queen, and his little court
led. Sleeping in rough arbours formed of boughs, the party supported
themselves by hunting and fishing.
Gins and traps were set in the streams, and Douglas and Archie
were specially active in this pursuit; Archie's boyish experience
at Glen Cairn serving him in good stead. Between him and Sir James
Douglas a warm friendship had sprung up. Douglas was four years
his junior. As a young boy he had heard much of Archie's feats with
Wallace, and his father had often named him to him as conspicuous
for his bravery, as well as his youth. The young Douglas therefore
entertained the highest admiration for him, and had from the time
of his joining Bruce become his constant companion.
Bruce himself was the life and soul of the party. He was ever
hopeful and in high spirits, cheering his followers by his gaiety,
and wiling away the long evenings by tales of adventure and chivalry,
told when they were gathered round the fire.
Gradually the party made their way westward along Loch Tay and
Glen Dochart until they reached the head of Strathfillan; here, as
they were riding along a narrow pass, they were suddenly attacked
by Alexander MacDougall with a large gathering of his clansmen.
Several of the royal party were cut down at once, but Bruce with
his knights fought desperately. Archie Forbes with a few of the
others rallied round the queen with her ladies, and repelled every
effort of the wild clansmen to break through, and continued to draw
off gradually down the glen. Bruce, with Douglas, De la Haye, and
some others, formed the rearguard and kept back the mass of their
opponents. De la Haye and Douglas were both wounded, but the little
party continued to show a face to their foes until they reached
a spot where the path lay between a steep hill on one side and
the lake on the other. Then Bruce sent his followers ahead, and
himself covered the rear. Suddenly three of the MacDougalls, who
had climbed the hillside, made a spring upon him from above. One
leapt on to the horse behind the king, and attempted to hold his
arms, another seized his bridle rein, while the third thrust his
hand between Bruce's leg and the saddle to hurl him from his horse.
The path was too narrow for Bruce to turn his horse, and spurring
forward he pressed his leg so close to the saddle that he imprisoned
the arm of the assailant beneath it and dragged him along with
him, while with a blow of his sword he smote off the arm of him
who grasped the rein. Then, turning in his saddle, he seized his
assailant who was behind him and by main strength wrenched him round
to the pommel of the saddle and there slew him. Then he turned and
having cut down the man whose arm he held beneath his leg, he rode
on and joined his friends.
In the course of the struggle the brooch which fastened his cloak
was lost. This was found by the MacDougalls and carried home as
a trophy, and has been preserved by the family ever since, with
apparently as much pride as if it had been proof of the fidelity
and patriotism of their ancestors, instead of being a memento of
the time when, as false and disloyal Scotchmen, they fought with
England against Scotland's king and deliverer.
Chapter XIII The Castle of Dunstaffnage
Bruce's party were now more than ever straitened for provisions,
since they had to depend almost entirely upon such fish as they
might catch, as it was dangerous to stray far away in pursuit of
deer. Archie, however, with his bow and arrows ventured several
times to go hunting in order to relieve the sad condition of the
ladies, and succeeded two or three times in bringing a deer home
He had one day ventured much further away than usual. He had not
succeeded in finding a stag, and the ladies had for more than a
week subsisted entirely on fish. He therefore determined to continue
the search, however long, until he found one. He had crossed several
wooded hills, and was, he knew, leagues away from the point where
he had left his party, when, suddenly emerging from a wood, he came
upon a road just at the moment when a party some twenty strong of
wild clansmen were traversing it. On a palfrey in their centre was
a young lady whom they were apparently escorting. They were but
twenty yards away when he emerged from the wood, and on seeing him
they drew their claymores and rushed upon him. Perceiving that
flight from these swift footed mountaineers would be impossible,
Archie threw down his bow and arrows, and, drawing his sword, placed
his back against a tree, and prepared to defend himself until the
Parrying the blows of the first two who arrived he stretched them
dead upon the ground, and was then at once attacked by the whole of
the party together. Two more of his assailants fell by his sword;
but he must have been soon overpowered and slain, when the young
lady, whose cries to her followers to cease had been unheeded in
the din of the conflict, spurred her palfrey forward and broke into
the ring gathered round Archie.
The clansmen drew back a pace, and Archie lowered his sword.
"Desist," she cried to the former in a tone of command, "or my uncle
Alexander will make you rue the day when you disobeyed my orders.
I will answer for this young knight. And now, sir," she said,
turning to Archie, "do you surrender your sword to me, and yield
yourself up a prisoner. Further resistance would be madness; you
have done too much harm already. I promise you your life if you
will make no further resistance."
"Then, lady," Archie replied, handing his sword to her, "I willingly
yield myself your prisoner, and thank you for saving my life from
the hands of your savage followers."
The young lady touched the hilt of his sword, and motioned him to
replace it in its scabbard.
"You must accompany me," she said, "to the abode of my uncle Alexander
MacDougall. I would," she continued, as, with Archie walking beside
her palfrey, while the Highlanders, with sullen looks, kept close
behind, muttering angrily to themselves at having been cheated by
the young lady of their vengeance upon the man who had slain four
of their number, "that I could set you at liberty, but my authority
over my uncle's clansmen does not extend so far; and did I bid them
let you go free they would assuredly disobey me. You are, as I
can see by your attire, one of the Bruce's followers, for no other
knight could be found wandering alone through these woods."
"Yes, lady," Archie said, "I am Sir Archibald Forbes, one of the
few followers of the King of Scotland."
The lady gave a sudden start when Archie mentioned his name, and
for some little time did not speak again.
"I would," she said at last in a low voice, "that you had been
any other, seeing that Alexander MacDougall has a double cause of
enmity against you -- firstly, as being a follower of Bruce, who
slew his kinsman Comyn, and who has done but lately great harm to
himself and his clansmen; secondly, as having dispossessed Allan
Kerr, who is also his relative, of his lands and castle. My uncle
is a man of violent passions, and" -- she hesitated.
"And he may not, you think," Archie went on, "respect your promise
for my life. If that be so, lady -- and from what I have heard of
Alexander MacDougall it is like enough -- I beg you to give me back
my surrender, for I would rather die here, sword in hand, than be
put to death in cold blood in the castle of Dunstaffnage."
"No," the lady said, "that cannot be. Think you I could see you
butchered before mine eyes after having once surrendered yourself
to me? No, sir. I beseech you act not so rashly -- that were certain
death; and I trust that my uncle, hostile as he may be against you,
will not inflict such dishonour upon me as to break the pledge I
have given for your safety."
Archie thought from what he had heard of the MacDougall that his
chance was a very slight one. Still, as the young ever cling to hope,
and as he would assuredly be slain by the clansmen, he thought it
better to take the chance, small as it was, and so continued his
march by the side of his captor's palfrey.
After two hours' journey they neared the castle of Alexander
of Lorne. Archie could not repress a thrill of apprehension as he
looked at the grim fortress and thought of the character of its
lord; but his bearing showed no fear, as, conversing with the young
lady, he approached the entrance. The gate was thrown open, and
Alexander of Lorne himself issued out with a number of retainers.
"Ah! Marjory!" he said, "I am glad to see your bonny face at
Dunstaffnage. It is three months since you left us, and the time
has gone slowly; the very dogs have been pining for your voice.
But who have we here?" he exclaimed, as his eye fell upon Archie.
"It is a wandering knight, uncle," Marjory said lightly, "whom
I captured in the forest on my way hither. He fought valiantly
against Murdoch and your followers, but at last he surrendered to
me on my giving him my pledge that his life should be safe, and
that he should be treated honourably. Such a pledge I am sure,
uncle," she spoke earnestly now, "you will respect."
Alexander MacDougall's brow was as black as night, and he spoke in
Gaelic with his followers.
"What!" he said angrily to the girl; "he has killed four of my
men, and is doubtless one of Bruce's party who slipped through my
fingers the other day and killed so many of my kinsmen and vassals.
You have taken too much upon yourself, Marjory. It is not by you
that he has been made captive, but by my men, and you had no power
to give such promise as you have made. Who is this young springall?"
"I am Sir Archibald Forbes," Archie said proudly -- "a name which
may have reached you even here."
"Archibald Forbes!" exclaimed MacDougall furiously. "What! the
enemy and despoiler of the Kerrs! Had you a hundred lives you
should die. Didst know this, Marjory?" he said furiously to the
girl. "Didst know who this young adventurer was when you asked his
life of me?"
"I did, uncle," the girl said fearlessly. "I did not know his name
when he surrendered to me, and afterwards, when he told me, what
could I do? I had given my promise, and I renewed it; and I trust,
dear uncle, that you will respect and not bring dishonour upon it."
"Dishonour!" MacDougall said savagely; "the girl has lost her senses.
I tell you he should die if every woman in Scotland had given her
promise for his life. Away with him!" he said to his retainers;
"take him to the chamber at the top of the tower; I will give him
till tomorrow to prepare for death, for by all the saints I swear
he shall hang at daybreak. As to you, girl, go to your chamber,
and let me not see your face again till this matter is concluded.
Methinks a madness must have fallen upon you that you should thus
venture to lift your voice for a Forbes."
The girl burst into tears as Archie was led away. His guards took
him to the upper chamber in a turret, a little room of some seven
feet in diameter, and there, having deprived him of his arms, they
left him, barring and bolting the massive oaken door behind them.
Archie had no hope whatever that Alexander MacDougall would change
his mind, and felt certain that the following dawn would be his
last. Of escape there was no possibility; the door was solid and
massive, the window a mere narrow loophole for archers, two or
three inches wide; and even had he time to enlarge the opening he
would be no nearer freedom, for the moat lay full eighty feet below.
"I would I had died sword in hand!" he said bitterly; "then it
would have been over in a moment."
Then he thought of the girl to whom he had surrendered his sword.
"It was a sweet face and a bright one," he said; "a fairer and
brighter I never saw. It is strange that I should meet her now
only when I am about to die." Then he thought of the agony which
his mother would feel at the news of his death and at the extinction
of their race. Sadly he paced up and down his narrow cell till
night fell. None took the trouble to bring him food -- considering,
doubtless, that he might well fast till morning. When it became
dark he lay down on the hard stone, and, with his arm under his head
was soon asleep -- his last determination being that if possible
he would snatch a sword or dagger from the hand of those who came
to take him to execution, and so die fighting; or if that were
impossible, he would try to burst from them and to end his life by
a leap from the turret.
He was awakened by a slight noise at the door, and sprang to his
feet instantly, believing that day was at hand and his hour had
come. To his surprise a voice, speaking scarcely above a whisper,
"Hush! my son, make no noise; I am here as a friend." Then the
door closed, and Archie's visitor produced a lighted lantern from
the folds of his garments, and Archie saw that a priest stood before
"I thank you, father," he said gratefully; "you have doubtless come
to shrive me, and I would gladly listen to your ministrations. I
would fain intrust you, too, with a message to my mother if you
will take it for me; and I would fain also that you told the Lady
Marjory that she must not grieve for my death, or feel that she is
in any way dishonoured by it, seeing that she strove to her utmost
to keep her promise, and is in no way to blame that her uncle has
"You can even give her your message yourself, sir knight," the
priest said, "seeing that the wilful girl has herself accompanied
Thus saying, he stepped aside, and Archie perceived, standing
behind the priest, a figure who, being in deep shadow, he had not
hitherto seen. She came timidly forward, and Archie, bending on
one knee, took the hand she held out and kissed it.
"Lady," he said, "you have heard my message; blame not yourself,
I beseech you, for my death. Remember that after all you have
lengthened my life and not shortened it, seeing that but for your
interference I must have been slain as I stood, by your followers.
It was kind and good of you thus to come to bid me farewell."
"But I have not come to bid you farewell. Tell him, good Father
Anselm, our purpose here."
"`Tis a mad brain business," the priest said, shrugging his shoulders;
"and, priest though I am, I shall not care to meet MacDougall in
the morning. However, since this wilful girl wills it, what can I
do? I have been her instructor since she was a child; and instead
of being a docile and obedient pupil, she has been a tyrannical
master to me; and I have been so accustomed to do her will in all
things that I cannot say her nay now. I held out as long as I could;
but what can a poor priest do against sobs and tears? So at last
I have given in and consented to risk the MacDougall's anger, to
bring smiles into her face again. I have tried in vain to persuade
her that since it is the chief's doing, your death will bring no
dishonour upon her. I have offered to absolve her from the promise,
and if she has not faith in my power to do so, to write to the
pope himself and ask for his absolution for any breach that there
may be; but I might as well have spoken to the wind. When a young
lady makes up her mind, stone walls are less difficult to move; so
you see here we are. Wound round my waist are a hundred feet of
stout rope, with knots tied three feet apart. We have only now to
ascend the stairs to the platform above and fix the rope, and in
an hour you will be far away among the woods."
Archie's heart bounded with joy with the hope of life and freedom;
but he said quietly, "I thank you, dear lady, with all my heart for
your goodness; but I could not accept life at the cost of bringing
your uncle's anger upon you."
"You need not fear for that," the girl replied. "My uncle is
passionate and headstrong -- unforgiving to his foes or those he
deems so, but affectionate to those he loves. I have always been his
pet; and though, doubtless, his anger will be hot just at first,
it will pass away after a time. Let no scruple trouble you on that
score; and I would rather put up with a hundred beatings than live
with the knowledge that one of Scotland's bravest knights came to
his end by a breach of my promise. Though my uncle and all my people
side with the English, yet do not I; and I think the good father
here, though from prudence he says but little, is a true Scotsman
also. I have heard of your name from childhood as the companion
and friend of Wallace, and as one of the champions of our country;
and though by blood I ought to hate you, my feelings have been very
different. But now stand talking no longer; the castle is sound
asleep, but I tremble lest some mischance should mar our plans."
"That is good sense," Father Anselm said; "and remember, not a
word must be spoken when we have once left this chamber. There is
a sentry at the gate; and although the night is dark, and I deem
not that he can see us, yet must we observe every precaution."
"Holy father," Archie said, "no words of mine can thank you for
the part which you are playing tonight. Believe me, Archie Forbes
will ever feel grateful for your kindness and aid; and should you
ever quit Dunstaffnage you will be welcomed at Aberfilly Castle. As
to you, lady, henceforth Archie Forbes is your knight and servant.
You have given me my life, and henceforth I regard it as yours. Will
you take this ring as my token? Should you ever send it to me, in
whatever peril or difficulty you may be, I will come to your aid
instantly, even should it reach me in a stricken battle. Think not
that I speak the language of idle gallantry. Hitherto my thoughts
have been only on Scotland, and no maiden has ever for an instant
drawn them from her. Henceforth, though I fight for Scotland, yet
will my country have a rival in my heart; and even while I charge
into the ranks of the English, the fair image of Marjory MacDougall
will be in my thoughts."
Father Anselm gave a slight start of surprise as Archie concluded,
and would have spoken had not the girl touched him lightly. She
took the pledge from Archie and said, "I will keep your ring, Sir
Archibald Forbes; and should I ever have occasion for help I will
not forget your promise. As to your other words, I doubt not that
you mean them now; but it is unlikely, though I may dwell in your
thoughts, that you will ever in the flesh see Marjory MacDougall,
between whose house and yours there is, as you know, bitter enmity."
"There! there!" Father Anselm said impatiently; "enough, and more
than enough talk. Go to the door, Sir Archibald, and prepare to
open it directly I have blown out the light. The way up the stairs
lies on your right hand as you go out."
Not another word was spoken. Noiselessly the little party made their
way to the roof; there one end of the rope was quickly knotted round
the battlement. Archie grasped the good priest's hand, and kissed
that of the girl; and then, swinging himself off the battlement,
disappeared at once in the darkness. Not a sound was heard for
some time, then the listening pair above heard a faint splash in
the water. The priest laid his hands on the rope and found that it
swung slack in the air; he hauled it up and twisted it again round
his waist. As he passed the door of the cell he pushed it to and
replaced the bars and bolts, and then with his charge regained the
portion of the castle inhabited by the family.
A few vigorous strokes took Archie across the moat, and an hour
later he was deep in the heart of the forest. Before morning broke
he was far beyond the risk of pursuit; and, taking the bearings of
the surrounding hills, he found himself, after some walking, at the
spot where he had left the royal party. As he had expected, it was
deserted; he, however, set out on the traces of the party, and that
night overtook them at their next encampment.
With the reticence natural to young lovers Archie felt a disinclination
to speak of what had happened, or of the services which Marjory
MacDougall had rendered him. As it was naturally supposed that he
had lost his way in the woods on the previous day, and had not reached
the encampment in the morning, until after they had started, few
questions were asked, and indeed the thoughts of the whole party
were occupied with the approaching separation which the night
before they had agreed was absolutely necessary. The ladies were
worn out with their fatigues and hardships, and the Earl of Athole,
and some of the other elder men, were also unable longer to support
it. Winter was close at hand, and the hardships would increase ten
fold in severity. Therefore it was concluded that the time had come
when they must separate, and that the queen and her companions,
accompanied by those who could still be mounted, should seek shelter
in Bruce's strong castle of Kildrummy. The Earl of Athole and the
king's brother Nigel were in charge of the party.
Bruce with his remaining companions determined to proceed into
Kintyre, the country of Sir Neil Campbell, and thence to cross for
a time to the north of Ireland. Sir Neil accordingly started to
obtain the necessary vessels, and the king and his company followed
slowly. To reach the Firth of Clyde it was necessary to cross Loch
Lomond. This was a difficult undertaking; but after great search
Sir James Douglas discovered a small boat sunk beneath the surface
of the lake. On being pulled out it was found to be old and leaky,
and would hold at best but three. With strips torn from their garments
they stopped the leaks as best they could, and then started across
the lake. There were two hundred to cross, and the passage occupied
a night and a day; those who could not swim being taken over in the
boat, while the swimmers kept alongside and when fatigued rested
their hands on her gunwales. They were now in the Lennox country,
and while Bruce and his friends were hunting, they were delighted
to come across the Earl of Lennox and some of his companions,
who had found refuge there after the battle of Methven. Although
himself an exile and a fugitive the earl was in his own country,
and was therefore able to entertain the king and his companions
hospitably, and the rest and feeling of security were welcome indeed
after the past labours and dangers.
After a time Sir Neil Campbell arrived with the vessels, and,
accompanied by the Earl of Lennox, Bruce and his companions embarked
at a point near Cardross. They sailed down the Clyde and round
the south end of Arran, until, after many adventures and dangers,
they reached the Castle of Dunaverty, on the south point of the Mull
of Kintyre, belonging to Angus, chief of Islay. Here they waited
for some time, but not feeling secure even in this secluded spot
from the vengeance of their English and Scottish foes, they again
set sail and landed at the Isle of Rathlin, almost midway between
Ireland and Scotland. Hitherto Robert Bruce had received but little
of that support which was so freely given to Wallace by the Scotch
people at large; nor is this a matter for surprise. Baliol and
Comyn had in turn betrayed the country to the English, and Bruce
had hitherto been regarded as even more strongly devoted to the
English cause than they had been. Thus the people viewed his attempt
rather as an effort to win a throne for himself than as one to free
Scotland from English domination. They had naturally no confidence
in the nobles who had so often betrayed them, and Bruce especially
had, three or four times already, after taking up arms, made his
peace with England and fought against the Scots. Therefore, at first
the people looked on at the conflict with comparative indifference.
They were ready enough to strike for freedom, as they had proved
when they had rallied round Wallace, but it was necessary before
they did so that they should possess confidence in their leaders.
Such confidence they had certainly no cause whatever to feel in
Bruce. The time was yet to come when they should recognize in him a
leader as bold, as persevering, and as determined as Wallace himself.
The people of Rathlin were rude and ignorant, but simple and
hospitable. The island contained nothing to attract either adventurers
or traders, and it was seldom, therefore, that ships touched there,
consequently there was little fear that the news of the sojourn of
the Scotch king and his companions would reach the mainland, and
indeed the English remained in profound ignorance as to what had
become of the fugitives, and deemed them to be still in hiding
somewhere among the western hills.
Edward had in council issued a proclamation commanding "all the
people of the country to pursue and search for all who had been in
arms and had not surrendered, also all who had been guilty of other
crimes, and to deliver them up dead or alive, and that whosoever
were negligent in the discharge of his duty should forfeit their
castles and be imprisoned."
Pembroke, the guardian, was to punish at his discretion all who
harboured offenders. Those who abetted the slayers of Comyn, or who
knowingly harboured them or their accomplices, were to be "drawn
and hanged," while all who surrendered were to be imprisoned during
the king's pleasure. The edict was carried out to the letter, and
the English soldiery, with the aid of the Scotch of their party,
scoured the whole country, putting to the sword all who were found
in arms or under circumstances of suspicion.
Chapter XIV Colonsay
Archie, having little else to do, spent much of his time in fishing.
As a boy he had learned to be fond of the sport in the stream of
Glen Cairn; but the sea was new to him, and whenever the weather
permitting he used to go out with the natives in their boats. The
Irish coast was but a few miles away, but there was little traffic
between Rathlin and the mainland. The coast there is wild and
forbidding, and extremely dangerous in case of a northerly gale
blowing up suddenly. The natives were a wild and savage race, and
many of those who had fought to the last against the English refused
to submit when their chiefs laid down their arms, and took refuge
in the many caves and hiding places afforded in the wild and broken
country on the north coast.
Thus no profitable trade was to be carried on with the Irish
mainland. The people of Rathlin were themselves primitive in their
ways. Their wants were few and easily satisfied. The wool of their
flocks furnished them with clothing, and they raised sufficient grain
in sheltered spots to supply them with meal, while an abundance of
food could be always obtained from the sea. In fine weather they
took more than sufficient for their needs, and dried the overplus
to serve them when the winter winds kept their boats from putting
out. Once or twice in the year their largest craft, laden with dried
fish, would make across to Ayr, and there disposing of its cargo
would bring back such articles as were needed, and more precious
still, the news of what was passing in the world, of which the
simple islanders knew so little. Even more than fishing, Archie
loved when the wind blew wildly to go down to the shore and watch
the great waves rolling in and dashing themselves into foam on
the rocky coast. This to him was an entirely new pleasure, and he
enjoyed it intensely. Perched on some projecting rock out of reach
of the waves, he would sit for hours watching the grand scene,
sometimes alone, sometimes with one or two of his comrades. The
influx of a hundred visitors had somewhat straitened the islanders,
and the fishermen were forced to put to sea in weather when they
would not ordinarily have launched their boats, for in the winter
they seldom ventured out unless the previous season had been
unusually bad, and the stores of food laid by insufficient for winter
consumption. Archie generally went out with an old man, who with
two grownup sons owned a boat. They were bold and skilful fishermen,
and often put to sea when no other boat cared to go out.
One evening the old man, as usual before going to sea, came into
the hut which Archie and Sir James Douglas inhabited, and told him
that he was going out early the next morning. "Fish are scarce,"
he said, "and it would be a disgrace on us islanders if our guests
were to run short of food."
"I shall be ready, Donald," Archie replied, "and I hope we shall
have good sport."
"I can't see what pleasure you take, Sir Archie," the young Douglas
said, when the fisherman had left, "in being tossed up and down on
the sea in a dirty boat, especially when the wind is high and the
"I like it best then," Archie replied; "when the men are rowing
against the wind, and the waves dash against the boat and the spray
comes over in blinding showers, I feel very much the same sort of
excitement as I do in a battle. It is a strife with the elements
instead of with men, but the feeling in both cases is akin, and
I feel the blood dancing fast through my veins and my lips set
tightly together, just as when I stand shoulder to shoulder with
my retainers, and breast the wave of English horsemen."
"Well, each to his taste, I suppose," Douglas said, laughing; "I
have not seen much of war yet, and I envy you with all my heart the
fights which you have gone through; but I can see no amusement in
getting drenched to the skin by the sea. I think I can understand
your feeling, though, for it is near akin to my own when I sit on
the back of a fiery young horse, who has not yet been broken, and
feel him battle with his will against mine, and bound, and rear,
and curvet in his endeavours to throw me, until at last he is
conquered and obeys the slightest touch of the rein."
"No doubt it is the same feeling," Archie replied; "it is the joy
of strife in another form. For myself, I own I would rather fight
on foot than on horseback; I can trust myself better than I can
trust my steed, can wheel thrice while he is turning once, can defend
both sides equally well; whereas on horseback, not only have I to
defend myself but my horse, which is far more difficult, and if he
is wounded and falls I may be entangled under him and be helpless
at the mercy of an opponent."
"But none acquitted them better on horseback at Methven than you
did, Sir Archie," the young fellow said, admiringly. "Did you not
save the king, and keep at bay his foes till your retainers came
up with their pikes and carried him off from the centre of the
"I did my best," Archie said, "as one should always do; but I felt
even then that I would rather have been fighting on foot."
"That is because you have so much skill with your weapon, Sir
Archie," Douglas said. "On horseback with mace or battleaxe it is
mainly a question of sheer strength, and though you are very strong
there are others who are as strong as you. Now, it is allowed that
none of the king's knights and followers are as skilful as you
with the sword, and even the king himself, who is regarded as the
second best knight in Europe, owns that on foot and with a sword
he has no chance against you. That we all saw when you practiced
for the amusement of the queen and her ladies in the mountains of
Lennox. None other could even touch you, while you dented all our
helmets and armour finely with that sword of yours. Had we continued
the sport there would not have been a whole piece of armour among
us save your own harness."
Archie laughed. "I suppose, Douglas, we all like best that in which
we most excel. There are many knights in the English army who would
assuredly overthrow me either in the tilting ring or in the field,
for I had not the training on horseback when quite young which is
needed to make a perfect knight, while I had every advantage in the
learning of sword playing, and I stick to my own trade. The world
is beginning to learn that a man on foot is a match for a horseman
-- Wallace taught Europe that lesson. They are slow to believe it,
for hitherto armed knights have deemed themselves invincible, and
have held in contempt all foot soldiers. Stirling, and Falkirk,
and Loudon Hill have taught them the difference, but it will be a
long time before they fairly own a fact so mortifying to chivalry;
but the time will come, be well assured, when battles will be
fought almost with infantry alone. Upon them the brunt of the day
will fall, and by them will victory be decided, while horsemen
will be used principally for pursuing the foe when he is broken,
for covering the retreat of infantry by desperate charges, or by
charging into the midst of a fray when the infantry are broken."
"All the better for Scotland," James Douglas said, cheerfully.
"We are not a nation of horsemen, and our mountains and hills, our
forests and morasses, are better adapted for infantry than cavalry;
so if ever the change you predict come to pass we shall be gainers
At daybreak next morning Archie went down to the cove where his
friend the fisherman kept his boat. The old man and his two sons
were already there, but had not launched their craft.
"I like not the look of the weather," the fisherman said when
Archie joined him. "The sky is dull and heavy, the sea is black
and sullen, but there is a sound in the waves as they break against
the rocks which seems to tell of a coming storm. I think, however,
it will be some hours before it breaks, and if we have luck we may
get a haul or two before it comes on."
"I am ready to go or stay," Archie said; "I have no experience in
your weather here, and would not urge you against your own judgment,
whatever it be; but if you put out I am ready to go with you."
"We will try it," the fisherman said, "for food is running short;
but we will not go far from the shore, so that we can pull back if
the weather gets worse."
The boat was soon launched, the nets and oars were already on
board, and they quickly put out from the shore. The boat carried
a small square sail, which was used when running before the wind.
In those days the art of navigation was in its infancy, and the art
of tacking against the wind had scarcely begun to be understood;
indeed, so high were the ships out of water, with their lofty poops
and forecastles, that it was scarce possible to sail them on a
wind, so great was the leeway they made. Thus when contrary winds
came mariners anchored and waited as patiently as they might for
a change, and voyage to a port but two days' sail with a favouring
wind was a matter of weeks when it was foul.
After rowing a mile from land the nets were put out, and for some
time they drifted near these. From time to time the old fisherman
cast an anxious eye at the sky.
"We must get in our nets," he said at last decidedly; "the wind is
rising fast, and is backing from the west round to the south. Be
quick, lads, for ere long the gale will be on us in its strength,
and if `tis from the south we may well be blown out to sea."
Without a moment's delay the fishermen set to work to get in the nets,
Archie lending a hand to assist them. The younger men thoroughly
agreed in their father's opinion of the weather, but they knew too
well the respect due to age to venture upon expressing an opinion
until he had first spoken. The haul was a better one than they had
expected, considering that the net had been down but two hours.
"`Tis not so bad," the fisherman said, "and the catch will be right
welcome -- that is," he added, as he looked toward the land, "if
we get it safely on shore."
The wind was now blowing strongly, but if it did not rise the boat
would assuredly make the land. Archie took the helm, having learned
somewhat of the steering on previous excursions, and the three
fishermen tugged at the oars. It was a cross sea, for although the
wind now blew nearly in their teeth, it had until the last half
hour been from the west, and the waves were rolling in from the
Atlantic. The boat, however, made fair progress, and Archie began
to think that the doubts of the fishermen as to their making the
shore were in no wise justified, when suddenly a gust, far stronger
than those they had hitherto met, struck the boat. "Keep her head
straight!" the fisherman shouted. "Don't let the wind take it one
side or the other. Stick to it, boys; row your hardest; it is on
us now and in earnest, I fear."
The three men bent to their oars, but Archie felt that they were
no longer making headway. The boat was wide and high out of the
water; a good sea boat, but very hard to row against the wind.
Although the men strained at the oars, till Archie expected to see
the tough staves crack under their efforts, the boat did not seem
to move. Indeed it appeared to Archie that in the brief space when
the oars were out of the water the wind drove her further back than
the distance she had gained in the last stroke. He hoped, however,
that the squall was merely temporary, and that when it subsided
there would still be no difficulty in gaining the land. His hope
was not realized. Instead of abating, the wind appeared each moment
to increase in force. Clouds of spray were blown on the top of
the waves, so that at times Archie could not see the shore before
him. For nearly half an hour the fishermen struggled on, but
Archie saw with dismay that the boat was receding from the shore,
and that they had already lost the distance they had gained before
the squall struck them. The old fisherman looked several times over
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