KIRKPATRICK, Murray, and Scrymgeour,
hastened to their commander; and in a few minutes all were under arms.
Wallace briefly explained his altered plan of assault; and marshalling his
men accordingly, led them in silence through the water, and along the
beach, which lay between the rock and the Leven. Arriving at the base just
as the moon set, they began to ascend. To do this in the dark, redoubled
the difficulty; but as Wallace had the place of every accessible stone
accurately described to him by Edwin, he went confidently forward,
followed by his Lanarkmen.
He and they, being the first to
mount, fixed and held the tops of the scaling-ladders, while Kirkpatrick
and Scrymgeour, with their men, gradually ascended, and gained the bottom,
of the wall. here, planting themselves in the crannies of the rock, under
the impenetrable darkness of the
night (for the moon had not only set, but the stars were obscured by
clouds) they awaited the signal for the final ascent.
Meanwhile, Edwin led Lord
Andrew with his followers, and the Fraser men, round by the western side
to mount the watch-tower rock, and seize the few soldiers who kept the
beacon. As a signal of having succeeded, they were to smother the flame on
the top of the tower, and thence descend towards the garrison, to meet
Wallace before the prison of the Earl of Mar.
While the men of Lanark,
with their eyes fixed on the burning beacon, in deadly stillness watched
the appointed signal for the attack, Wallace, by the aid of his dagger,
which he struck into the firm soil that occupied the cracks in the rock,
drew himself up almost parallel with the top of the great wall, which
clasped the bases of the two hills. He listened; not a voice was to be
heard in the garrison, of all the legions he had so lately seen glittering
on its battlements. It was an awful pause.
Now was the moment, when
Scotland was to make her first essay for freedom! Should it fail, ten
thousand bolts of iron would be added to her chains! Should it succeed,
liberty and happiness were the almost certain consequences.
He looked up; and fixing
his eyes on the beacon-flame, thought he saw the figures of men pass
before it—the next moment all was darkness—he sprang on the wall; and
feeling, by the touch of hands about his feet, that his brave followers
had already mounted their ladders, he grasped his sword firmly, and leaped
down on the ground within. In that moment, he struck against the sentinel,
who was just passing, and by the violence of the shock struck him to the
earth; but the man, as he fell, catching Wallace round the waist, dragged
him after him, and with a vociferous cry, shouted, Treason!
Several sentinels ran with
levelled pikes to the spot; the adjacent turrets emptied themselves of
their armed inhabitants; and all assaulted Wallace, just as he had
extricated himself from the grasp of the prostrate soldier.
"Who are you?"
"Your enemy;" and
the speaker fell at his feet with one stroke of his sword.
!-—Treason!" resounded from the rest, as they aimed their random
strokes at the conquering chief. But he was now assisted by the vigorous
arm of Ker, and of several Lanarkmen; who, having cleared the wall, were
dealing about blows in the darkness, which filled the air with groans, and
strewed the ground with the dying and the dead.
One or two Southrons, whose
courage was not equal to their caution, fled to arouse the garrison; and
just as the whole of Wallace’s men leaped the wall, and rallied to his
support, the inner ballium gate burst open, and a legion of foes, bearing
torches, issued to the contest. With horrible threatenings, they came on;
and by a rapid movement, surrounded Wallace and his little company. But
his soul brightened in danger; and his men, warmed with the same spirit,
stood firm with fixed pikes, receiving without injury, the assault. Their
weapons being longer than the enemy’s, the Southrons, not aware of the
circumstance, rushed upon their points, incurring the death they meant to
give. Seeing their consequent disorder, Wallace ordered the pikes to be
dropped, and his men to charge sword in hand. Terrible was now the havoc
for the desperate Scots, grappling each to his foe with a fatal hold, let
not go till the piercing shriek, or the agonised groan, convinced him that
death had seized its victim. Wallace fought in front, making a dreadful
passage through the falling ranks; while the tremendous sweep of his
sword, flashing in the intermitting light, warned the survivors where the
avenging blade would next descend. A horrid vacuity was made in the lately
thronged spot: it seemed not the slaughter of a mortal arm, but as if the
destroying angel himself were there; and with one blast of his desolating
brand, had laid all in ruin. The platform was cleared; and the fallen
torches, some half-extinguished, and others flaming on the ground by the
sides of the dead, showed, in their uncertain gleams a few terrified
wretches seeking safety in flight. The same lurid rays, casting a
transitory fight on the iron gratings of the great tower, informed Wallace
that the heat of conflict had drawn him to the prison of the Earl.
"We are now near the
end of this night’s work!" cried he. "Let us press forward, to
give freedom to the Earl of Mar!"
"Liberty, and Lord
Mar!" cried Kirkpatrick, rushing onwards. He was immediately followed
by his own men; but not quick enough for his daring. The guard in the
tower, hearing the outcry, issued from the flanking gates, and,
surrounding him, took him prisoner.
"If there be might in
your arms;" roared he with the voice of a lion, "men of Loch
Dome, rescue your leader!"
They hurried forward, with
yells of defiance: but the strength of the garrison, awakened by the
flying wretches from the defeat, turned out all its power; and, with
DeValence at their head, pouring on Kirkpatrick’s men, would have
overpowered them, had not Wallace, and his sixty heroes, with desperate
determination, cut a passage to them through the closing ranks.
Pikes struck against
corslets, swords rung on helmets; and the ponderous battle-axe, falling
with the weight of fate, cleft the uplifted target in twain. Blood spouted
on every side; and the dripping hands of Kirkpatrick, as Wallace tore him
from the enemy, proclaimed that he had bathed his vengeance in the stream.
On being released, he shook his ensanguined arms, and burst into a horrid
laugh: "The work speeds! Now through the heart of the
Even while he spoke,
Wallace lost him again from his side: and again, by the shouts of the
Southrons, who cried, "No quarter for the rebel !" he learnt he
must be retaken. That merciless cry was the death-bell of their own doom.
It directed Wallace to the spot; and throwing himself and his brethren of
Lanark, into the midst of the band which held the prisoner, Kirkpatrick
was again rescued. But thousands seemed now surrounding the chief himself.
To do this generous deed, he had advanced further that he ought; and
himself and his brave followers, must have been slain, had he not recoiled
back; and covering their rear with the great tower, all who had the
hardihood in approach, fell under the weight of the Scottish claymore.
Scrymgeour, at the head of
the Loch Dome men, in vain attempted to reach this contending party; and
fearful of losing the royal standard, he was turning to make a valiant
retreat, when Murray and Edwin (having disengaged their followers from the
precipices of the beacon rock) rushed into the fray, striking their
shields, and uttering the inspiring slogen of "Wallace and
Freedom!" It was re-echoed by every Scot, those that were flying,
returned; they who sustained the conflict, hailed the cry with braced
sinews; and the terrible thunder of the Word,. pealing from rank to rank,
struck a terror into De Valence’s men, which made them pause. The
extinction of the beacon, made them still more aghast.
On that short moment,
turned the crisis of their fate. Wallace cut his way forward through the
dismayed Southrons; who, hearing the reiterated shouts of the fresh
reinforcement, knew not whether its strength might not be thousands
instead of hundreds, and panic-struck they became an easy prey to their
enemies. Surrounded, mixed with their assailants, they knew not friends
from foes; and each individual being bent on flight, they indiscriminately
cut to right and left, wounding as many of thejr own men, as of the Scots;
and finally, after slaughtering half, their companions, some few escaped
through the small posterns of the garrison; leaving the inner ballia
entirely in possession of the foe.
The whole of the field
being cleared, Wallace ordered the tower to be forced. A strong guard was
still within; and, as the assailants drew near, every means were used to
render their assaults abortive. As the Scots pressed to the main entrance,
stones and heavy metals were thrown upon their heads; but not in the least
intimidated, they stood beneath the iron shower, till Wallace ordered them
to drive a large felled tree, which lay on the ground, against the hinges
of the door: it burst open, and the whole party rushed into the hall.
A short, sanguinary, but
decisive conflict took place. The hauberk and plaid of Wallace were dyed
from head to foot: his own brave blood, and the ferocious stream from his
enemies, mingled in one horrid hue upon his garments.
Wallace!" cried the stentorian lungs of Kirkpatrick. In a moment
Wallace was at his side, and found him wrestling with two men. The light
of a single lamp, suspended from the rafters, fell direct upon the
combatants. A dagger was pointed at the life of the old knight; but
Wallace laid the holder of it dead across the body of his intended victim;
and catching the other assailant by the throat, threw him prostrate to the
"Spare me, for the
honour of knighthood !" cried the conquered.
"For my honour, you
shall die !" cried Kirkpatrick.
sword was already at the heart of the Englishman. Wallace beat it back.
" Kirkpatrick, he is my prisoner, and I give him life."
"You know not what you
do," cried the old knight, struggling with Wallace, to release his
sword-arm. "This is De Valence !" "Quarter !"
reiterated the panting, and hard-pressed Earl! "Noble Wallace, my
life! For I am wounded."
"Sooner take my
own" cried the determined Kirkpatrick, fixing his foot on the neck of
the prostrate man, and trying to wrench his hand from the grasp of his
Wallace: "you must strike through me, to kill any wounded man I hear
cry for quarter! Release the Earl, for your own honour."
Our safety lies in his
destruction I" cried Kirkpatrick; and enraged at opposition, he
thrust his commander (little expecting such an action), from off the body
of the Earl. De Valence seized his advantage, and catching Kirkpatrick by
the limb that pressed on him, overthrew him; and by a sudden spring,
turning quickly on Wallace, struck his dagger into his side. All this was
done in an instant. Wallace did not fall; but staggering with the weapon
sticking in the wound, he was so surprised by the baseness of the deed, he
could not give the alarm till its perpetrator had disappeared.
The flying Earl took his
course through a narrow passage between the works; and proceeding swiftly
towards the south, issued safely at one of the outer ballium gates; that
part of the castle being now solitary, all the men having been drawn from
the walls to the contest within; and thence he made his escape in a
fisher’s boat across the Clyde.
Meanwhile, Wallace having
recovered himself; just as the Scots brought in lighted torches from the
lower apartmeats of the tower, saw Sir Roger Kirkpatrick leaning sternly
on his blood-dripping sword; and the young Edwin coming forward in
garments too nearly the hue of his own. Andrew Murray stood already by his
side. Wallace’s hand was upon the hilt of the dagger, which the
ungrateful De Valence had left in his breast. "You are wounded! you
are slain !" cried Murray, in a voice of consternation. Edwin stood
motionless with horror.
nothing," replied Wallace, "but let me a little more
blood." As be spoke, he drew it out, and thrusting the corner of his
scarf into his bosom, staunched the wound.
"So is your mercy
rewarded ! "exclaimed Kirkpatrick.
"So am I true to a
soldier’s duty," returned Wallace, "though De Valence is a
traitor to his!"
"You treated him as a
man;" replied Kirkpatrick: "but now you find him a treacherous
"Your eagerness, my brave
friend," returned Wallace, "has lost him as a prisoner. If not
for humanity, or honour; for policy’s sake, we ought to have spared his
life; and detained him an hostage for our own countymen in England."
Kirkpatrick remembered how
his violence had released the Earl, and he looked down abashed. Wallace,
perceiving it, continued, "But let us not abuse our time, discoursing
on a coward. He is gone; the fortress is ours; and our first measure must
be to guard it from surprise."
"As he spoke, his eyes
fell upon Edwin; who having recovered from the shock of Murray’s
exclamation, had brought forward the surgeon of their little band. A few
minutes bound up the wounds of their chief; even while beckoning the
anxious boy towards him. "Brave youth, cried he, "you, who at
the imminent risk of your own life, explored these heights, that you might
render our ascent more sure; you, who have fought like a young lion, in
this unequal contest here, in the face of all your valiant comrades,
receive that knighthood, which rather derives lustre from your virtues,
than gives additional consequence to your name."
With a bounding heart Edwin
bent his knee: and Wallace, giving him the hallowed accolade, the young
knight rose from his position, with all the roses of his springing fame
glowing in his countenance. Scrymgeour presented him the knightly girdle,
which be embraced from his own loins; and while the happy boy received the
sword to which it was attached, he exclaimed with animation: "While I
follow the example before my eyes, I shall never draw this in an unjust
cause, nor ever sheath it in a just one."
returned Wallace, smiling his approval of this sentiment, "while work
is to be done, I will keep my knight to the toil; go, and with twenty men
of Lanark, guard the wall by which we ascended."
Edwin disappeared, and
Wallace, having despatched detachments to occupy other parts of the
garrison, took a torch in his hand, and turning to Murray, proposed
seeking the Earl of Mar. Lord Andrew was soon at the iron door which led
from the hall to the principal stairs.
"We must have our friendly
battering ram here;" cried he; "a close prisoner do they indeed
keep my uncle, when even the inner doors are bolted on him!"
The men dragged the tree forward,
and striking it against the iron, it burst open with the noise of thunder.
Shrieks from within followed the sound. The women of Lady Mar, not knowing
what to suppose during the uproar of
the conflict, now hearing the door forced, expected nothing less than that
some new enemies were advancing and, giving themselves up to despair, they
flew into the room where the Countess sat in equal though less clamorous
At the shouts of the Scots,
when they began the attack, the Earl had started from his couch.
"That is not peace!" said he; "there is some
whom?" returned Lady Mar; "who would venture to attack a
fortress like this, garrisoned with thousands?"
The cry was repeated.
"It is the slogen of Sir William Wallace!" cried he; " I
shall be free! O, for a sword! Hear! hear!"
As the shouts redoubled;
and, mingled with the various clangors of battle, drew nearer the tower,
the impatience of the Earl could not be restrained. Hope and eagerness
seemed to have dried up his wounds, and new-strungevery nerve, while
unarmed as he was he rushed from the apartment, and hurried down the
stairs which led to the iron door. He found it so firmly fastened by bars
and padlocks, he could not move it. Again he ascended to his terrified
wife; who, conscious how little obligation Wallace owed to her, perhaps
dreaded even more to see her husband’s hopes realised, than to find
herself yet more rigidly the prisoner of the haughty lie Valence.
he, "the arm of God is with us. My prayers are heard; Scotland will
yet be free. Hear those groans,—those shouts. —Victory! Victory!"
As he thus echoed the cry
of triumph, uttered by the Scots when bursting open the outer gate of the
tower, the foundations of the building shook, and Lady Mar, almost
insensible with terror, received the exhausted body of her husband into
her arms; he fainted from the transport his weakened frame was unable to
bear. Soon after this, the stair door was forced, and the panic-struck
women ran shrieking into the room to their mistress.
The Countess could not
speak, but sat pale and motionless, supporting his head on her bosom.
Guided by the noise, Lord Andrew flew into the room, and rushing towards
his uncle, fell at his feet. "Liberty! Liberty !" was all he
could say. His words pierced the ear of the Earl, like a voice from
Heaven; and looking up, without a word he threw his arms round the neck of
Tears relieved the
contending feelings of the Countess; and the women, recognising the young
Lord of Bothwell, retired into a distant corner, well assured they had now
no cause for fears.
The Earl rested but a
moment on the panting breast of his nephew; when, gazing round, to seek
the mighty leader of the band, he saw Wallace enter, with the step of
security, and triumph in his eyes.
deliverer!" cried the venerable Mar, stretching forth his arms. The
next instant he held Wallace to his breast; and remembering all that he
had lost for his sake since they parted, a soldier’s heart melted, and
he burst into tears. "Wallace, my preserver; thou victim for
Scotland, and for me ;--—or rather, thou chosen of Heaven! who, by the
sacrifice of all thou didst hold dear on earth, art made a blessing to thy
country !—receive my thanks, and my heart."
Wallace felt all in his
soul, which the Earl meant to imply; but recovering the calmed tone of his
mind, before he was released from the embrace of his friend; when he
raised himself and replied to the acknowledgments of the Countess, it was
with a serene, though glowing countenance.
She, when she had glanced
from the eager entrance and action of her nephew, to the advancing hero,
looked as Venus did when she beheld the God of War rise from field
of blood. She started at the appearance of Wallace; but it was not his
garments dropping gore, nor the blood stained falchion in his hand, that
caused the new sensation; it was the figure breathing youth and manhood.
It was the face, where every noble passion of the heart had stamped
themselves on his perfect features; it was his air where majesty, and
sweet entrancing grace, mingled in manly union. They were all these, that
struck at once upon the sight of Lady Mar, and made her exclaim within
herself, "This is a wonder of man! This is the hero, that is to
humble Edward !—to bless,—whom?" was her thought. "Oh, no
woman!" Let him be a creature enshrined and holy, for no female heart
to dare to love!"
This passed through the
mind of the Countess, in less time than it has been repeated; and when she
saw him clasped in her husband’s arms, she exclaimed to herself,
"Helen, thou wert right; thy gratitude was prophetic of a matchless
object; while I, wretch that I was, even whispered the wish to my
traitress heart, while I gave information against my husband, that this
man, the cause of all, might be secured or slain!"
Just as the last idea
struck her, Wallace rose from the embrace of his venerable friend, and met
the riveted eye of the Countess. She stammered forth a few expressions of
obligation; he attributed her confusion to the surprise of the moment, and
replying to her respectfully, turned again to the Earl.
The joy of the venerable
chief was unbounded, when he found that a handful of Scots had put two
thousand Southrons to flight, and gained entire possession of the castle.
Wallace, having satisfied the anxious questions of his noble auditor,
gladly perceived the morning light He rose from his seat. "I shall
take a temporary leave of you, my Lord," said he to the Earl: "I
must now visit my brave
comrades at their posts; and see the colours of Scotland planted on the
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