As Wallace pursued his
march along the once fertile, and well-peopled valleys of Clydesdale,
their present appearance affected him like the sight of a friend whom he
had seen depart in all the graces of youth and prosperity; but met again
overcome with disease and wretchedness.
The pastures of Carstairs
on the east of the river, which used at this season to be whitened with
sheep, and sending forth the lowings of abundant cattle; and the vales,
which had teemed with reapers rejoicing in the harvest, were now laid
waste and silent. The plain presented one wide flat of desolation. Where
once was the enamelled meadow, a dreary swamp extended its vaponry
surface; and the road which a happy peasantry no longer trod, lay choked
up with thistles and rank grass; while birds, and animals of chase, would
spring from its thickets, on the lonely traveller, to tell him by their
wild astonishment, that he was distant from even the haunts of men. The
remains of villages were visible; but the blackness of ashes, marked the
walls of the ruined dwellings.
Wallace felt that he was
passing through the country in which his Marion bad been rifled of her
life; and as he moved along, nature all around seemed to have partaken her
death. As he rode over the moors which led towards the
district of Crawford Lammington, those hills amidst which the beloved of
his soul first drew breath, he became totally silent. Time rolled back; he
was no longer the Regent of Scotland, but the fond lover of Marion
Braidfoot. His heart beat as it was wont to do, in turning his horse down
the defile which led direct to Lammington: but the scene was completely
changed; the groves in which he had so often wandered with her, were gone:
they had been cut down for the very purpose of destroying that place,
which had once been the abode of beauty and innocence, and of all the
One shattered tower [The
ruins of this tower are still visible; and near to them the people of the
country still show the dells where Wallace walked with his beloved; and
point out the place where he afterwards encamped his brave army.—(1809.)]
alone, remained of the house of Lammington. The scathing of fire embrowned
its sides, and the uprooted garden, marked where the ravager had been.
While his army marched before him along the heights of Crawford, Wallace
slowly moved forward, musing on the scene. In turning the angle of a
shattered wall, his horse started; and, the next moment, he perceived an
aged figure, with a beard white as snow, and wrapped in a dark plaid,
emerging from the ground. At sight of the apparition, Murray, who
accompanied his friend, and had hitherto kept silent, suddenly exclaimed,
"I conjure you, honest Scot, ghost or man, give us a subject for
conversation! and as a beginning, pray tell me to whom this ruined tower
The sight of two warriors
in the Scottish garb, encouraged the old man; and stepping out on the
ground, he drew near to Murray. "Ruined, indeed, sir,"
replied he; " and its story is very sad. When the Southrons
who hold Annandale, heard of the brave acts of Sir William Wallace, they
sent an army to destroy this castle and domains;
which are his, in right of the Lady Marion of Lammington. Sweet creature!
I hear they foully murdered her in Lanark."
Murray was smitten
speechless at this information; for had he suspected there was any private
reason with Wallace, for his silent lingering about this desolate spot, he
would rather have drawn him away, than have stopped to ask questions.
"And did you know the
Lady Marion, venerable old man ?" inquired Wallace, in a voice so
descriptive of what was passing in his heart, that the man turned towards
him; and struck with his noble mien, he pulled off his bonnet, and bowing,
answered :—"Did I know her? She was nursed on these knees. And my
wife, who cherished her sweet infancy, is now within yon brae. It is our
only home; for the Southrons burnt us out of the castle; where our young
lady left us when she went to be married to the brave young Wallace. He
was as handsome a youth as ever the sun shone upon: and he loved my lady
from a boy. I never shall forget the day when she stood on the top of that
rock, and let a garland he had made for her fall into the Clyde. Without
more ado, never caring because it is the deepest here of any part of the
river, he jumps in after it; and I after him: and well I did, for when I
caught him by his bonny golden locks, he was insensible. His head had
struck against a stone in the plunge, and a great cut was over his
forehead. God bless him, a sorry scar it left! but many, I warrant, hath
the Southrons now made on his comely countenance. I have never seen him
since he grew a man."
Gregory, the honest steward
of Lammington, was now recognised in this old man’s narration; but time,
and hardship, had so altered his appearance, that Wallace could not have
otherwise recollected the ruddy age, and active figure, of his
well-remembered companion, in the shaking limbs and pallid visage of the
hoary speaker. When he ended, the chief threw himself from his horse. He
approached the old man; with one hand he took off his helmet, and with the
other putting back the same golden locks, he said, "Was the scar you
speak of, anything like this?". His face was now close to the eye of
Gregory; who in the action, the words, and the mark, immediately
recognising the young playmate of his happiest days, with an almost shriek
of joy, threw himself on his neck, and wept; then looking up, with tears
rolling over his cheeks, he exclaimed, "O Power of Mercy, take me to
thyself, since my eyes have seen the deliverer of Scotland!"
"Not so, my venerable
friend," returned Wallace: "you must make these desolated
regions, bloom anew! Decorate them, Gregory, as you would do the tomb of
your mistress. I give them to you and yours. Marion and I have no
posterity! Let her foster-brother, if he still live; let him be now the
laird of Lammington."
"He does live:"
replied the old man, "but the shadow of what he was. In attempting,
with a few resolute lads, to defend these domains, he was severely
wounded. His companions were slain; and I found him on the other side of
my lady’s garden, left for dead. We fled with him to the woods; and
there remained, till all about here was laid in ashes. Finding the cruel
Southrons had made a general waste, yet fearful of fresh incursions, we,
and others who had been driven from their homes, dug us subterraueous
dwellings; [Several of these excavated
residences, may now be seen in Crawford Moor. Tradition informs us, of the
use to which they were applied. Not only the outraged people, thus found
shelter in the bosom of their mother earth, but the cattle also.—
(1809.)] and ever since have lived like
fairies in the green hill side. My son, and. his young wife and babes, are
now in our cavern; but reduced by sickness and want; for famine is here.
Alas, the Southrons, in conquering Scotland, have not gained a kingdom,
but made a desert!"
"And there is a God,
who marks !" returned Wallace; "I go to reap the harvests of
Northumberland. What our enemies have ravished hence, in part they shall
refund: a few days, and your granaries shall overflow. Meanwhile, I leave
with you, my friend," said he, pointing to Murray, "at the head
of five hundred men. To-morrow, he may commence the reduction of every
English fortress that yet casts a shade on the stream of our native Clyde;
for, when the sun next rises, the Southrons will have passed the Scottish
borders, and then the truce expires."
Gregory fell at his feet,
and begged that he might be allowed to bring his Nannie, to see the
husband of her once dear child.
replied Wallace, "I could not bear the interview.—she shall see me,
when I return."
then spoke apart to Murray; who cheerfully acquiesced in a commission,
that promised him, not only the glory of being a conqueror, but the
private satisfaction, he hoped, of driving the Southron garrison out of
his own paternal castle. To send such news to his noble father, at
Stirling, would indeed be a wreath of honour to his aged and yet warlike
brow. It was then arranged between the young chief and his commander, that
watch-towers should be thrown up on every conspicuous eminence throughout
the country, from the heights of Clydesdale, to those which skirted the
Scottish borders; whence concerted signals of victories, or other
information, might be severally interchanged. These preliminaries
adjusted, the Regent’s bugle brought Ker and Sir John Graham to his
side. The appointed number of men, were left with Murray; and Wallace,
joining his other chieftains, bade his friend and honest servant
He now awakened to a sense
of the present scene ; and speeded his legions over hill, and dale, till
they entered on the once luxuriant banks of the Annan ;—this territory
of some of the noblest in Scotland, till Bruce, their chief, deserted
them! It lay in more terrific ruin than even the tracts he had left. There
reigned the silence of the tomb; here existed the expiring agonies of men
left to perish. Recent marks of devastation, smoked from the blood-stained
earth; and in the midst of a barren waste, a few houseless wretches rushed
forward at sight of the Regent, threw themselves before his horse, and
begged a morsel of food, for their famishing selves, and dying infants.
"Look;" cried an almost frantic mother, holding towards him the
living skeleton of a child; "my husband was slain by the Southrons,
who hold Lochmaben castle; my subsistence was carried away, and myself
turned forth, to give birth to this child on the rocks. We have fed, till
this hour, on the wild berries; but I die, and my child expires before
me!" A second group, with shrieks of despair, cried aloud, "Here
are our young ones, exposed to equal miseries. Give us bread, Regent of
Scotland, or we perish!"
"Wallace turned to his
troops: "Fast for a day, my brave friends," cried he; lay the
provisions you have brought with you, before these hapless people.
To-morrow, you shall feast largely on Southron tables."
He was instantly obeyed. As
his men marched on, they threw their loaded wallets amongst the famishing
groups; and, followed by their blessings, descended with augmented speed
the ravaged hills of Annandale. Dawn was brightening the dark head of
Brunswark, as they advanced towards the Scottish boundary. At a distance,
like a wreath of white vapours, lay the English camp, along the southern
bank of the Esk. At this sight, Wallace ordered his bugles to sound. They
were immediately answered, by those of the opposite host. The heralds of
both armies advanced; and the sun rising from behind the eastern hills,
shone full upon the legions of Scotland, winding down the romantic
precipices of Wauchope.
Two hours arranged every
preliminary to the exchange of prisoners; and, when the clarion of the
trumpet announced, that each party was to pass over the river to the side
of its respective country, Wallace stood in the midst of his chieftains,
to receive the last adieus of his illustrious captives. When De Warenne
approached, the Regent took off his helmet. The Southron had already his
in his hand. "Farewell, gallant Scot," said he; "if aught
could embitter this moment of recovered freedom, it is, that I leave a
man, I so revere, still confident in a finally hopeless cause!"
"It would not be the
less just, were it indeed desperate," replied Wallace; "but had
not Heaven shown on which side it fought, I should not now have the honour
of thus bidding the brave De Warenne farewell."
The Earl passed on; and the
other lords, with grateful and respectful looks, paid their obeisance. The
litter of Montgomery drew near: the curtains were thrown open: Wallace
stretched out his hand to him: "The prayers of sainted innocence are
"Never more shall her
angel spirit behold me here, as you now behold me," returned
Montgomery: "I must be a traitor to virtue, before I ever again bear
arms against Sir William Wallace." Wallace pressed his hand, and they
The escort which guarded De
Valence, advanced; and the proud Earl seeing where his enemy stood, took
off his gauntlet, and throwing it fiercely towards him, exclaimed,
"Carry that to your minion Ruthven; and tell him, the hand that wore
it, will yet be tremendously revenged!"
As the Southron ranks filed
off towards Carlisle, those of the returning Scottish prisoners,
approached their deliverer. Now it was that the full clangour of joy burst
from every breast, and triumph-breathing instrument, in the Scottish
legions; now it was that the echoes rang with loud huzzas of "Long
live the valiant Wallace, who brings our nobles out of captivity! Long
live our matchless Regent !"
As these shouts rent the
air, the lords Badenoch and Athol drew near. The princely head of the
former, bent with proud acknowledgment, to the mild dignity of Wallace.
Badenoch’s penetrating eye, saw that it was indead the patriotic
guardian of his country, to whom he bowed, and not the vain affector of
regal power. At his approach, Wallace alighted from his horse, and
received his offered hand, and thanks, with every grace inherent in his
noble nature: "I am happy," returned he, "to have been the
instrument of recalling to my country, one of the princes of her royal
blood."—"And while one drop of it exists in Scotland,"
replied Badenoch, "its possessor must acknowledge the bravest of our
defenders, in Sir William Wallace."
Athol next advanced; but
his gloomy countenance contradicted his words, when he attempted to utter
a similar sense of obligation. Sir John Monteith was eloquent in his
thanks. And Sir William Maitland was not less sincere in gratitude, than
Wallace was in joy, at having given liberty to so near a relation of Helen
Mar. The rest of the captive Scots, to the number of several hundreds,
were ready to kiss the feet of the man who thus restored them to their
honours, their country, and their friends; and Wallace bowed his happy
head under a shower of blessings, which poured on him from a thousand
In pity to the wearied
travellers, he ordered tents to be pitched; and for the sake of their
distant friends, he despatched a detachment to the top of Langholm-hill,
to send forth a smoke [There are hills in Annnadale and Clydesdale, called
Watches, where persons in old times were stationed to give
different signals appointed by their commanders. These notices were
communicated with wonderful rapidity, by smoke in the day and flame at
night.—(1809)] in token to the Clydesdale watch, of the armistice being
ended. He had hardly seen it ascend the mountain, when Graham arrived from
reconnoitring; and told him, that an English army of great strength were
approaching by the foot of the more southern hills, to take the reposing
Scots by surprise.
"They shall find us
ready to receive them," was the prompt reply of Wallace; and his
actions were ever the companions of his words.
Leaving the new-arrived Scots, to rest on the banks of the Esk, he put
himself at the head of 5000 men; and despatching a thousand more, with Sir
John Graham, to pass the Cheviots; and be in ambush to attack Southrons
when he should give the signal; he marched swiftly forward, and soon fell
in with some advanced squadrons of the enemy, amongst the recesses of
those hills. Little expecting such a rencontre, they were marching in
defiles upon the lower ridgy craigs, to avoid the swamps which occupied
the broader way.
At sight of the Scots, Lord
Percy, the Southron commander, ordered a party of his archers to discharge
their arrows. The artillery of war being thus opened afresh, Wallace drew
his bright sword, and waving it before him, just as the sun set, called
aloud to his followers. His inspiring voice echoed from hill to hill; and
the higher detachments of the Scots, pouring downwards with the
resist-less impetuosity of their own mountain streams, precipitated their
enemies into the valley; while Wallace, with his pikemen, charging the
horse in those slippery paths, drove the terrified animals into the
morasses; where some sunk at once, and others, plunging, threw their
riders, to perish in the swamp.
Desperate at the confusion
which now ensued; as his archers fell headlong from the rocks, and his
cavalry lay drowning before him; Lord Percy called up his infantry:—they
appeared; but though ten thousand strong, the determined Scots met their
first ranks breast to breast; and levelling them with their companions,
rushed on the rest with the force of a thunder-storm. It was at this
period, that the signal was given from the horn of Wallace; and the
division of Graham, meeting the retreating Southrons as they attempted to
form behind the hill, completed their defeat. The slaughter became
dreadful, the victory decisive. Sir Ralph Latimer, the second in command,
was killed in the first onset; and Lord Percy himself after fighting as
became his brave house, fled, covered with wounds, towards Alnwick.