The march of De Valence
from the castle, having proved that no suspicion of any of its late
inhabitants being still in the neighbourhood, remained with its usurpers;
Grimsby thought he might depart in safety; and next morning he begged
permission of the prior to commence his journey. "I am anxious to
quit a land," said he, "where my countrymen are committing
violences which make me blush at the name of Englishman."
Murray put a purse of gold
into the soldierís hand, while the prior covered his armour with a
pilgrimís gown. Grimsby, with a respectful bow, returned the gift:
"I cannot take money from you, my Lord. But bestow on me the sword at
your side, and that I will preserve for ever."
Murray took it off, and
gave it to the soldier. "Let us exchange, my brave friend" said
he: "give me yours; and it shall be a memorial to me of having found
virtue in an Englishman."
Grimsby unlocked his rude
weapon in a moment, and as he put the iron hilt into the young Scotís
hand, a tear stood in his eye: "When you raise this sword against my
countrymen, think on Grimsby, a faithful, though humble soldier of the
cross, and spare the blood of all who ask for mercy."
Murray looked a gracious
assent; for the tear of mercy was infectious. Without speaking, he gave
the good soldierís hand a parting grasp; and with regret, that superior
claims called so brave a man from his side, he saw him leave the
monastery. [Grimsby is recorded as
having been originally in the service of the King of England. His after
attachment to Wallace is also mentioned as a matter of fact. Most of the
followers of the knight of Ellerslie, who are particularised in these
volumes, are named from authority. Stephen Ireland, "the veteran of
Largs," also makes an eminent figure in the epic song of "Ye
Actis and Deidis of yo Vailzeaud Camptoun Shyr William Wallace."ó(1800.)]
banquets on memory; making that which seems the poison of life, its
aliment. During the hours of regret, we recall the images of departed
joys; and in weeping over each tender remembrance, tears so softly shed,
embalm the wounds of grief. To be denied the privilege of pouring forth
our love, and our lamentations, over the grave of one who in life was our
happiness, is to shut up the soul of the survivor in a solitary tomb,
where the bereaved heart pines in secret, till it breaks with the fulness
of uncommunicated sorrow: but listen to the mourner; give his feelings
way; and, like the river rolling from the hills into the valley, they will
flow with a gradually gentler stream, till they become lost in timeís
So Murray judged, when the
poor old harper, finding himself alone with him, again gave loose to his
often-recapitulated griefs. He wept like an infant; and recounting the
afflictions of his master, while bewailing the disasters at Bothwell,
implored Murray to go without delay to support the now almost friendless
Wallace. Murray was consoling him with the assurance that he would set off
for the mountains that very evening, when the prior returned to conduct
Halbert to a cell appointed for his noviciate. The good priest had placed
one of his most pious fathers there, to administer both temporal and
spiritual cordials to the aged sufferer.
The sorrowing domestic of
Wallace being thus disposed of, the prior and Murray remained together,
consulting on the safest means of passing to the Cartlane hills. A
lay-brother, whom the prior had sent in pursuit of Helenís fifty
warriors, to apprise them of the English being in the craigs, at this
juncture entered the library. He informed the father,
that, secure in his religious garb, he had penetrated many of the Cartlane
defiles, but could neither see nor hear anything of the party. Every glen
or height was occupied by the English; and from a woman, of whom he begged
a draught of milk, he had learnt how closely the mountains were invested.
The English commander, in his zeal to prevent provisions being conveyed to
Wallace and his famishing garrison, had stopped a procession of monks,
bearing a dead body to the sepulchral cave of Saint Columba. He would not
allow them to ascend the heights, until he had examined whether the bier
really bore a corpse, or was a vehicle to carry food to the beleaguered
In the midst of this
information, the prior and his friends were startled by a shout; and soon
after a tumult of voices, in which might be distinguished the cry of
"A gallows for the traitor!"
"Our brave Englishman
has fallen into their hands," cried Murray, hastening towards the
"What would you
do?" interrupted the prior, holding him. "Your single arm could
not save the soldier. The cross has more power; I will seek these violent
men: meanwhile stay here, as you value the lives of all in the
Murray had now recollected
himself; and acquiesced. The prior took the crucifix from the altar, and
ordering the porter to throw open the great doors (near which the
incessant shouting seemed to proceed); he appeared before a turbulent band
of soldiers, who were dragging a man along, fast bound with their leathern
belts. Blood, trickling from his face, fell on the hands of the ruthless
wretches, who, with horrid yells, were threatening him with instant death.
The prior, raising the
cross, rushed in amongst them; and, in the name of the blessed Son who
died on that tree, bade them stand! The soldiers trembled before the holy
majesty of his figure, and at his awful adjuration. The prior looked on
the prisoner, but he did not see the dark locks of the Englishman; it was
the yellow hair of Scotland, that mingled with the blood on his forehead.
"Whither do you hurry
that wounded man?"
"To his death,"
answered a surly fellow.
"What is his offence ?"
"He is a traitor."
"How has he proved it ?"
"He is a Scot; and he belongs
to the disloyal Lord of Mar. This bugle, with its crowned falcon, proves
it," added the Southron, holding up the very bugle which the Earl had
sent by Halbert to Wallace; and which was ornamented with the crest of Mar
wrought in gold.
"That this has been
Lord Marís," replied the prior, "there is no doubt; but may
not this man have found it? Or may it not have been given to him by the
Earl, before that chief incurred the displeasure of King Edward? Which of
you would think it just to be made to die, because your friend was
condemned to the scaffold? Unless you substantiate your charge against
this man, by a better proof than this bugle, his death would be a murder,
which the Lord of life will requite, in the perdition of your souls."
As the father spoke, he again elevated the cross: the men turned pale.
"I am a minister of
Christ;" continued he, "and must be the friend of justice.
Release, therefore, that wounded man to me. Before the altar of the
Searcher of all hearts, he shall confess himself; and if I find that he is
guilty unto death, I promise you by the holy St. Fillan, to release him to
your commanding officer; and so let justice take its course. But if he
prove innocent, I am the soldier of Christ; and no monarch on earth shall
wrest his children from the protection of the church."
While he spake, the men who
held the prisoner, let go their hold; and the prior, stretching out his
hand to him, gave him to a party of monks, to conduct into the convent.
Then to convince the soldiers, that it was the manís life he sought to
save, and not the spoil, he returned the golden bugle, and bade them
depart in peace.
Awed by the fatherís
address, and satisfied with the money and arms of which they had rifled
the stranger, the marauders retreated; determining, indeed, to say nothing
of the matter to the officer in the castle, lest he should demand the
horn; and, elated with the present booty, they marched off to pursue their
plundering excursion. Bursting into yeomenís houses, and peasantís
huts, stripping all of tbeir substance who did, or did not, swear fealty
to Edward; thus robbing the latter, and exacting contributions from the
former; while vain prayers for mercy, and unanswered cries for redress,
echoed dolefully through the vale of Bothwell; they sped gaily on, as if
murder were pastime, and rapine honour.
The prior, on returning
into the convent, ordered the gates to be bolted. When he entered the
chapter-house, finding the monks had already bound up the wounds of the
stranger, he made a sign for the brethren to withdraw; and then
approaching the young man, "My son," said he, in a mild tone,
"you heard my declaration to the men from whom I took you! Answer me
with truth; and you shall find, that virtue, or repentance, have alike a
refuge in the arms of the church. As I am its servant, no man deeds fear
to confide in me. Speak with candour! How came you by that bugle?"
The stranger looked steadly
on his questioner: "A minister of the all-righteous God, cannot mean
to deceive. You have saved my life, and I should be less than man, could I
doubt the evidence of that deed. I received that bugle from a brave Scot,
who dwells amongst the eastern mountains; and who gave it to me, to assure
the Earl of Mar that I came from him."
The prior apprehended that it was of
Wallace he spoke: "You come to request a military aid from the Earl
of Mar!" rejoined the father, willing to sound him, before he
committed Murray, by calling him to the conference.
The stranger replied: "If, reverend
sir, you are in the confidence of the good Earl, pronounce but the
Christian name of the man who charged me with the bugle, and allow me
then, for his sake, to ask you, what has indeed happened to the Earl! that
I was seized by foes, when I expected to meet with friends only! Reply to
this, and I shall speak freely; but at present, though I would confide all
of myself to your sacred character, yet the confidence of others is not
mine to bestow."
The prior being convinced by this caution, that he
was indeed speaking with some messenger from Wallace, made no hesitation
to answer, "Your master is a knight, and a braver never drew breath,
since the time of his royal namesake, William the Lion !"
The man rose hastily from his seat, and falling on
his knees before the prior, put his garment to his lips:ó "Father,
I now know that I am with a friend of my persecuted master! But if, indeed,
the situation of Lord Mar precludes assistance from him, all hope is lost!
The noble Wallace is penned within the hills, without any hopes of escape.
Suffer me, then, thou venerable saint to rejoin him immediately, that I
may at least die with my friend!"
"Hope for a better destiny;" returned the
prior; "I am a servant, and not to be worshipped: turn to that altar,
and kneel to Him who can alone send the succour you need!"
The good man, thinking it was now time to
call the young lord of Bothwell; by a side-door from the chapterhouse
entered the library, where Murray was anxiously awaiting
his return. On his entrance, the impatient youth eagerly exclaimed,
"Have you rescued him?"
"Grimsby, I hope, is
far and safely on his journey, answered the good priest; "but the man
those murderers were dragging to death, is in the chapter-house. Follow
me, and he will give you news of Wallace."
Murray gladly obeyed.
At sight of a Scottish
knight in armour, the messenger of Wallace thought his prayers were
answered, and that he saw before him the leader of the host which was to
march to the preservation of his brave commander. Murray told him who he
was; and learnt from him in return, that Wallace now considered
himself in a state of siege; that the women, children, and old men, with
him, had nothing to feed on but wild strawberries and birdís eggs, which
they found in the hollows of the rocks. "To relieve them from such
hard quarters, girded by a barrier of English soldiers," continued
the narrator," is his first wish; but that cannot be effected by our
small number. However, he would make the attempt by a stratagem, could we
be at all supported by succours from the Earl of Mar!"
means," replied Murray, "are for a time cut off; but mine
shall be exerted to the utmost. Did you not meet, somewhere, a company of
Scots to the number of fifty? I sent them off yesterday to seek your noble
the young man; "I fear they have been taken by the enemy; for in my
way to Sir William. Wallace, not knowing the English were so close to his
sanctuary, I was nearly seized myself. I had not the good fortune to be
with him, when he struck the first blow for Scotland in the citadel of
Lanark; but as soon as I heard the tale of his wrongs, and that he had
retired in arms towards the Cartlane craigs, I determined to follow his
fate. We had been companions in our boyish days, and
friends after. He saved my life once, in swimming; and now that a
formidable nation menaces his, I seek to repay the debt. For this purpose,
a few nights ago I left my guardianís house by stealth, and sought my
way to my friend. I found the banks of the Mouse occupied by the English;
but exploring the most intricate passes, at last gained the bottom of the
precipice on the top of which Wallace is encamped; and as I lay among the
bushes, watching an opportunity to ascend, I perceived two English
soldiers near me. They were in discourse, and I overheard them say, that
besides Heselrigge himself, nearly two hundred of his garrison had fallen
by the hand of Wallaceís men in the contention at the castle: that the
tidings were sent to Sir Richard Arnulff, the deputy-governor of Ayr ; and
he had despatched a thousand men to surround Cartlane craigs, spies having
given notice that they were Sir Williamís strongholds; and the orders
were, that he must be taken dead or alive; while all his adherents, men
and women, should receive no quarter.
"Such was the information I brought to
my gallant friend, when in the dead of night I mounted the rock, and
calling to the Scottish sentinel in Gaelic, gave him my name, and was
allowed to enter that sacred spot. Wallace welcomed his faithful Ker, [The
stem of this brave name, in subsequent times, became two great branches:
the Roxburghs and the Lothian.] and soon unfolded his distress and his
hopes. He told me of the famine that threatened his little garrison; of
the constant watching, day and night, necessary to prevent a surprise. But
in his extremity, he observed that one defile was thinly guarded by the
enemy; probably because, as it lay at the bottom of a perpendicular angle
of the rock, they thought it unattainable by the Scots. To this point,
however, my dauntless friend turns his eyes. He would attempt it, could he
procure a sufficient number of fresh men to cover the retreat of his
exhausted few. For this purpose, as I had so lately explored the moss
hidden paths of the craigs, I volunteered to visit the Lord Mar, and to
conduct, in safety, any succours he might send to our persecuted
Ker, "was the errand on which I came to the Earl. Think then
my honor, when in my journey I found redoubled legions hemming in the
hills; and on advancing towards Bothwell castle, was seized by a party of
English, rifled, and declared an accomplice with that nobleman, who, they
said, was condemned to lose his head!"
"Not so bad as that,
my brave Ker," cried Murray, a glow of indignation flushing his
cheek; "many a bullís heads shall frown in this land, on the
Southron tables, before my uncleís neck gluts their axes! No true
Scottish blood, I trust, will ever stain their scaffolds; for while we
have arms to wield a sword, he must be a fool that grounds them on any
other terms than freedom or death. We have cast our lives on the die; and
Wallaceís camp, or the narrow house must be our prize !"
"Noble youth !"
exclaimed the prior, "may the innocence which gives animation to your
courage, continue its moving soul! They only are invincible, who are as
ready to die as to live; and no one can be firm in that principle, whose
exemplary life is not a happy preparation for the awful change."
Murray bowed modestly to
this pious encomium; and turning to Ker, informed him, that since he must
abandon all hope of hearing any more of the fifty brave men his cousin
Helen had sent to the craigs, he bethought him of applying to his uncle
Sir John Murray, who dwelt hard by, on his estate at Drumschargard.
"It is small;" said he, "and cannot afford many men; but
still he may spare sufficient to effect the escape of our commander; and
that for the present will be a host!"
To accomplish his design
without delay, for promptitude is the earnest of success, and to avoid a
surprise from the English lieutenant at Bothwell, (who, hearing of the
rencontre before the castle, might choose to demand his menís prisoner,)
Murray determined to take Ker with him; and, disguised as peasants, as
soon as darkness should shroud their movements, proceed to Drumshargard.