The forces being marshalled according to
the preconcerted order, the three commanders, with Wallace at their
head, led forward.
They passed through the forest of
Glenfinlass: and morning, and evening, still found them thridding its
unsuspected solitudes, in unmolested security: night too, watched their
The sun had just risen, as the little
band of patriots, the hope of freedom! emerged upon the eastern bank of
Loch Lomond. The bases of the mountains were yet covered with the
dispersing mist of the morning, and hardly distinguishable from the blue
waters of the lake, which lashed the shore. The newly-awakened sheep
bleated from the hills; and the umbrageous herbage, dropping dew, seemed
glittering with a thousand fairy gems.
"Where is the man
who would not fight for such a country!" exclaimed Murray, as he
stepped over a bridge of interwoven trees, which crossed one of the
mountain streams :—" this land was not made for slaves. Look at
these bulwarks of nature! Every mountain-head which forms this chain of
hills, is an impregnable rampart against invasion. If Baliol had
possessed but half a heart, Edward might have returned even worse than
Caesar ;.—. without a cockle to decorate his helmet."
"Baliol has found
the oblivion he incurred," returned Wallace; "his son,
perhaps, may better deserve the sceptre of such a country. Let us cut
the way; and he who merits the crown will soon appear to claim it."
it will not be Edward Baliol !" rejoined Scrymgeour: "During
the inconsistent reign of his father, I once carried a despatch to him
from Scotland. He was then banqueting in all the luxuries of the English
court; and such a voluptuary I never beheld! I left the scene of folly,
only praying that so effeminate a prince might never disgrace the throne
of our manly race of kings"
"If such be the
tuition of our lords, in the court of Edward—and wise is the policy,
for his own views!" observed Ker; "what can we expect
from even the Bruce? They were ever a nobler race than the Baliol: but
bad education, and luxury, will debase the most princely minds."
"I saw neither of
the Bruce, when I visited London," replied Scrymgeour: "the
Earl of Carrick was at his house in Cleveland;
and Robert Bruce, his eldest son with the English army in Guienne. But
they bore a manly character; particularly young Robert, to whom the
troubadours of Aquitaine have given the flattering appellation of Prince
"It would be more to
his honour," interrupted Murray, "if he compelled the English
to acknowledge him as Prince of Scotland. With so much bravery,
how can he allow such a civet-cat as Edward Baliol, to bear away the
title, which is his by the double right of blood and virtue?"
Wallace, "the young lion only sleeps! The time may come, when both
he, and his father, will rise from their lethargy, and throw themselves
at once into the arms of Scotland. To stimulate the dormant patriotism
of these two princes, by showing them a subject, leading their people to
liberty, is one great end of the victories I seek. None other than a
brave king, can bind the various interests of this distracted country
into one; and therefore for fair Freedom’s sake, my heart turns
towards the Bruces, with most anxious hopes."
"For my part,"
cried Murray, "I have always thought, the lady we will not woo, we
have no right to pretend to. If the Braces will not be at the pains to
snatch Scotland from drowning, I see no reason for making them a present
of what will cost us many a wet jacket, before we tug her from the
waves. He that wins the day, ought to wear the laurel: and so, once for
all, I proclaim him King of good old Albin [Albin
was the ancient name of Scotland.—(1809.)],
who will have the glory of driving her oppressors beyond her
Wallace did not hear this last
sentiment of Murray’s, as it was spoken in a lowered voice in the ear
of Kirkpatrick. "I perfectly agree with you;" was that knight’s
reply; "and in the true Roman
style, may the death of every Southron now in Scotland, and as many more
as fate chooses to yield us, be the preliminary games of his
Wallace, who heard this,
turned to Kirkpatrick with a mild rebuke in his eye: "Balaam blest,
when he meant to curse!" said he, "but some curse, when they
mean to bless. Such prayers are blasphemy. For, can we expect a blessing
on our arms, when all our invocations are for vengeance rather than
"Blood for blood, is
only justice !" returned Murray, "and how can you, noble
Wallace, as a Scot, and as a man, imply any mercy to the villains who
stab us to the heart?"
"I plead not for
them," replied Wallace; "but for the poor wretches who follow
their leaders, by force, to the field of Scotland: I would not inflict
on them the cruelty we now resent. It is not to aggrieve, but to
redress, that we carry arms. If we make not this distinction, we turn
courage into a crime; and plant disgrace, instead of honour, upon the
"I do not understand
commiserating the wolves, who have so long made havoc in our
country," cried Kirkpatrick; "methinks, such maidenly mercy is
rather out of place."
Wallace turned to him with a
smile: "I will answer you, my valiant friend, by adopting your own
figure. It is that these Southron wolves, may not confound us with
themselves, that I wish to show in our conduct, rather the generous
ardour of the faithful guardian of the fold, that the rapacious
fierceness which equals them with the beasts of the desert. As we are
men and Scots, let the burden of our prayers be, the preservation of our
country, not the slaughter of our enemies! The one is an ambition, with
which angels may sympathise: the other, a horrible desire, which speaks
the nature of fiends.
"In some cases this may
be;" replied Sir Roger, a little reconciled to the argument,"
but not in mine. My injury yet burns upon my cheek; and as nothing but
the lifeblood of Cressingham can quench it, I will listen no more to
your doctrine, till I am revenged. That done, I shall not forget your
Kirkpatrick !" exclaimed Wallace, "nothing that is really
cruel can dwell with such manly candour. Say what you will, I can trust
your heart, after this moment."
They had crossed the
river Ennerie, and were issuing from between its narrow ridge of hills,
when Wallace, pointing to a stupendous rock which rose in solitary
magnificence in the midst of a vast plain, exclaimed, "There is
Dumbarton castle !—that citadel holds the fetters of Scotland; and if
we break them there, every minor link will
easily give way."
The men uttered a shout
of anticipated triumph, at this sight. And proceeding, soon came in view
of the fortifications which helmeted the rock. As they approached, they
discovered that it had two summits; being in a manner cleft in twain;
the one side rising in a pyramidal forum; while the other, of a more
table shape, sustained the ponderous buildings of the fortress.
It was dusk when the
little army arrived in the rear of a close thicket which skirted the
eastern dyke of the castle, and reached to a considerable length over
the plain. On this spot, Wallace rested his men; and while they placed
themselves under its covert till the appointed time of attack, he
perceived through an opening in the wood, the gleaming of soldiers’
arms on the ramparts; and fires beginning to light on a lonely
watch-tower, which crowned the pinnacle of the highest rock.
"Poor fools !"
exclaimed Murray: "like the rest of their brethren of clay, they
look abroad for evils, and prepare not for those which are even at their
"That beacon-fire," cried
Scrymgeour, "shall light us to their chambers; and for once we
thank them for their providence."
"That beacon-fire:" whispered
Edwin to Wallace, "shall light me to honour! To-night, by your
agreement, I shall call you, brother, or lie dead on the summit
of those walls!"
"Edwin," said Wallace,"
act as you say; and deserve, not only to be called my brother, but to be
the first banneret of freedom in arms!"
He then turned towards the lines; and
giving his orders to each division, directed them to seek repose on the
surrounding heather, till the now-glowing moon should have sunk her
tell-tale light in the waves.