IN the cool of the evening,
while the young chieftain was thus employed, Kenneth entered to tell him,
that Sir William Wallace had called out his little army, to see its
strength and numbers. Edwin’s soul had become not more enamoured of the
panoply of war, than of the gracious smiles of his admired leader; and at
this intelligence, he threw his plaid over his brigandine, and placing a
swan-plumed bonnet on his brows, hastened forth to meet
The heights of
Craignacoheilg echoed with thronging footsteps; and a glittering light
seemed issuing from her woods, as the rays of the descending sun glanced
on the arms of her assembling warriors.
The thirty followers of
Murray appeared, just as the two hundred Frasers entered from an opening
in the rocks. Blood mounted into his face, as he compared his inferior
numbers, and recollected the obligation they were to repay, and the
greater one he was now going to incur. However, he threw the standard,
worked by Helen, on his shoulder, and turning to Wallace,
"Behold," cried he, Pointing to his men; "the poor man’s
mite! It is great, for it is my all!"
"Great indeed, brave
Murray!" returned Wallace "for it brings me a host in yourself."
"I will not disgrace
my standard!" said he, lowering the banner staff to Wallace he
started, when he saw the flowing lock, which he could not help recognising.
"This is my betrothed," continued Murray in a blither tone; I
have sworn to take her for better for worse; and I pledge you my troth,
nothing but death shall part us!"
Wallace grasped his hand :—." And I
pledge you mine, that the head whence it grew, shall be laid low, before I
suffer so generous a defender to be separated, dead or alive, from this
standard." His eyes glanced at the impresse: "Thou
art right," continued he; "God doth indeed arm thee! and in the
strength of a righteous cause, thou goest with the confidence of success,
to embrace victory as a bride!"
"No; I am only the bridegroom’s
man!" replied Murray, gaily moving off: "I shall be content with
a kiss or two from the handmaids, and leave the lady for my general."
"Happy, happy youth!" said
Wallace to himself, as his eye pursued the agile footsteps of the young
chieftain: "No conquering
affection has yet thrown open thy heart; no deadly injury hath lacerated
it with wounds incurable. Patriotism is a virgin passion in thy breast,
and innocence and joy wait upon her!"
"We just muster five hundred
men!" observed Ker to Wallace; "but they are all stout in heart
as condition; and ready, even to-night, if you will it, to commence their
"No," replied Wallace; "we
must not overstrain the generous spirit. Let them rest to-night; and
to-morrow’s dawn shall light us through the forest."
Ker, who acted as henchman to Wallace, now
returned to the ranks, to give the word; and they all marched forward.
Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, with his golden
standard, charged with the lion of Scotland, led the van. Wallace raised
his bonnet from his head, as it drew near. Scrymgeour
lowered the staff. Wallace threw up his outstretched hand at this action,
but the knight not understanding him, he stepped forward : "Sir
Alexander Scrymgeour," cried be, "that standard must not bow to
me. It represents the royalty of Scotland, before which we fight for our
liberties. If virtue yet dwell in the house of the valiant Saint David,
some of his offspring will hear of this day, and lead it forward to
conquest, and to a crown. Till such an hour, let not that standard bend to
Wallace fell back as he
spoke; and Scrymgeour bowing his head in sign of acquiescence, marched on.
Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, at
the head of his well-appointed Highlanders, next advanced. His blood-red
banner streamed to the air; and as it bent to Wallace, he saw that the
indignant knight had adopted the device of the hardy king Archaius [Archaius,
king of Scotland, having won the love and alliance of Charlemagne and of
many other Christian kings, found himself to be so mighty, that he took
for his device the Thistle and the Rewe, and for his motto, For my defence.
The Rewe, from its salutary properties, denoting his wisdom in peace,
and the Thistle, by its guardian prickles, exemplifying his power in
war.-(1809.)]: but with a fiercer motto: " Touch,
and I pierce!"
thought Wallace, as he passed along, "carries a relentless sword in
his very eye !"
The men of Loch Doine, a
strong, tall, and well-armed body, marched on, and gave place to the
advancing corps of Bothwell. The eye of Wallace felt as if turning from
gloom and horror, to the cheerful light of day, when it fell on the bright
and ingenuous face of Murray. Kenneth, with his troop followed; and the
youthful Edwin, like Cupid in arms, closed the procession.
Being drawn up in line,
their chief, fully satisfied, advanced towards them; and expressing his
sentiments of the patriotism which brought them into the field, informed
them of his intended march. He then turned to Stephen Ireland: "The
sun has now set," said he, "and before dark, you must
conduct the families of my worthy Lanarkmen to the protection of Sir John
Scott. It is time that age, infancy, and female weakness, should cease
their wanderings with us: to-night we bid them adieu, to meet them again,
by the leading of the Lord of Hosts! in, freedom and prosperity."
As Wallace ceased, and was
retiring from the ground, several old men, and young women with their
babes in their arms, rushed from behind the ranks, and throwing themselves
at his feet, caught hold of his hands and garements :—" We
go:" said the venerable fathers, "to pray for your welfare: and
sure we are, a crown will bless our country’s benefactor, here or in
replied Wallace, shaking the plumes of his bonnet over his eyes, to hide
the moisture which suffused them; "I can have no right to any other,
"Yes;" cried a
hoary-headed shepherd; "you free your country from tyrants, and the
people’s hearts will proclaim their deliverer their sovereign !"
"May your rightful
monarch, worthy patriarch," said Wallace,
"whether a Bruce or a Baliol, meet with equal zeal from Scotland at
large; and tyranny must then fall before courage and loyalty !"
The women wept, as they
clung to his band; and the daughter of Ireland, holding up her child in
her arm presented it to him: "Look on my son !" cried she with
energy: "the first word he speaks, shall be Wallace; the second,
liberty. And every drop of milk he draws from my bosom, shall be turned
into blood, to nerve a conquering arm, or to flow for his country !"
At this speech all the
women held up their children towards him :—" Here;" cried
they, "we devote them to Heaven, and to our country! Adopt them,
noble Wallace, to be thy followers in arms, when, Perhaps, their fathers
are laid low!"
Unable to speak, Wallace
pressed. their little faces separately to his lips; then returning them to
their mothers, laid his hand on his heart, and answered in an agitated
voice, "They are mine !—my weal shall be theirs,—my woe, my
own." As he spoke, he hurried from the weeping group; and immerging
amid the cliffs, hid himself from their tears, and their blessings.
He threw himself on a
shelving rock, whose fern-covered bosom projected over the winding waters
of Loch Lubnaig; and having stilled his own anguished recollections, he
turned his full eyes upon the lake beneath; and while he contemplated its
serene surface, he sighed, and thought how tranquil was nature, till the
rebellious passions of man, wearying of innocent joys, disturbed all by
restlessness, and invasion on the peace and happiness of others.
The mists of evening hung
on the gigantic tops of Ben Ledi, and Ben Vorlich; then sailing forward,
by degrees obscured the whole of the mountains; leaving nothing for the
eye to dwell on, but the long silent expanse of the waters below.
"So," said he,
"did I once believe myself for ever shut in from the world, by an
obscurity that promised me happiness, as well as seclusion! But the hours
of Ellerslie are gone. No tender wife will now twine her faithful arms
around my neck. No child of Marion’s will ever be pressed to my fond
bosom! Alas, the angel that sunk my country’s wrongs, to a dreamy
forgetfulness in her anus, she was to be immolated, that I might awake! My
wife, my unborn babe, they both must bleed for Scotland! and the sacrifice
shall not be yielded in vain. No, blessed God!" cried he, stretching
his clasped hands towards heaven; "endow me with thine own spirit,
and I shall yet lead my countrymen to liberty and happiness! Let me
counsel with thy wisdom;
let me conquer with thine arm! and when all is finished, give me, O
gracious Father! a quiet grave, beside my wife and child."
Tears, the first he had shed since the hour in which
he last pressed his Marion to his heart, now flowed copiously from his
eyes. The women, the children, had aroused all his recollections; but in
so softened a train, that they melted his heart, till he wept. "It is
thy just tribute, Marion !" said he: "it was blood you shed for
me, and shall I check these poor drops? Look on me, sweet saint; best
beloved of my soul: O! hover near me, in the day of battle; and thousands
of thine, and Scotland’s enemies, shall fall before thy husband’s
The plaintive voice of the Highland pipe,
at this moment broke upon his ears. It was the farewell of the patriarch
Lindsay, as he and his departing company descended the winding paths of
Craignacoheilg. Wallace started on his feet. The separation had then taken
place between his trusty followers, and their fanilies; and guessing the
feelings of those brave men, from what was passing in his own breast, he
dried away the traces of his tears, and once more resuming the warrior’s
cheerful look, sought that part of the rock where the Lanarkmen were
As he drew near, he saw some standing on
the cliff; and others leaning over, to catch another glance of the
departing group, ere it was lost amid the shades of Glenfinlass.
"Are they quite gone ?" asked
Dugald. "Quite;" answered a young man, who seemed to have got
the most advantageous situation for a view. "Then," cried he,
"may St. Andrew keep them till we meet again!"
"May a greater than St. Andrew hear
thy prayer!" ejaculated Wallace. At the sound of this response from
their chief, they all turned round. "My brave companions," said
he, "I come to repay this hour’s pang, by telling you, that in the
attack of Dumbarton, you shall have the honour of first mounting the
walls. I shall be at your head, to sign each brave soldier with a patriot’s
seal of honour:"
"To follow you, my Lord,"
said Dugald, "is our duty."
"I grant it,"
replied the chief; "and as I am the leader in that duty, it is mine
to dispense to every man his reward; to prove to all men, that virtue
alone is true nobility."
"Ah, dearest sir
!" exclaimed Edwin; who had been assisting the women to carry their
infants down the steep, and, on re-ascending, heard the latter part of
this conversation; "deprive me not of the aim of my life! These
warriors have had you long; have distinguished themselves
in your eyes; deprive me not then of the advantages of being near you; it
will make me doubly brave. O, my dear commander, let me only carry to the
grave, the consciousness
that, next to yourself, I was the first to mount
the rock of Dumbarton; and you will make me a noble indeed !"
Wallace looked at him, with
a smile of such graciousness that the youth threw himself into his arms:
"You will grant my boon!"
"I will; noble
boy;" said he: "act up to your sentiments,
and you shall be my brother."
"Call me by that
name," cried Edwin; "and I will dare anything."
"Then be the first to
follow me, on the rock," said he; "and I will lead you to an
honour, the highest in my gift; you shall unloose the chains of the Earl
of Mar! ; And ye;" continued he, turning to his men; "ye shall
not find your country slow to commemorate the duty of such sons. Being the
first to strike the blow for her freedom, shall be the first she will
distinguish. I now speak as her minister: and as a badge to times
immemorial, I bid you wear the Scottish lion on your shields.
A shout of proud joy issued from
every heart. And Wallace, seeing that honour had dried the tears of
regret, left them to their repose. He sent Edwin to his rest; and himself,
avoiding the other chieftains, retired to his own chamber in the tower.