THE happy effects of these rapid
conquests, were soon apparent. The fall of Berwick excited such a
confidence in the minds of the neighbouring chieftains, that every hour
brought fresh recruits to Wallace. Every mouth was full of the praises of
the young conqueror; every eye was eager to catch a glimpse of his person;
and while the men were emulous to share his glory, the women in their
secret bowers put up prayers for the preservation of one so handsome, and
Amongst the many of every rank and
age who hastened to pay their respects to the deliverer of Berwick, was
Sir Richard Maitland of Thirlestane, the Stalwarth Knight of Lauderdale.
[Sir Richard Maitland, of the
castle of Thirlestane on the Leeder, is noted in Scottish tradition for
his bravery. His valiant defence of his castle against the English in his
extreme old age, is still the subject of enthusiasm amongst the people of
Lauderdale. He was usually called the Stalwarth auld knight of Lauderdale,
meaning, the brave old knight, &c. lHe had three sons, but
one only survived him, who, from that circumstance, was surnamed burd
alan,, which signifies solitary.]
Wallace was no sooner told
of the approach of the venerable chief, than he set forth to bid him
welcome. At sight of the champion of Scotland, Sir Richard threw himself
off his horse, with a military grace that might have become even youthful
years; and hastening towards Wallace, clasped him in his arms.
"Let me look on
thee!" cried the old knight; "let me feast my eyes on the true
Scot, who again raises this hoary head, so long bent in shame for its
dishonoured country !" While he spoke he viewed Wallace from head to
foot. "I knew Sir Ronald Crawford, and thy valiant father;"
continued he: "O! had they lived to see this day! But the base murder
of the one, thou hast nobly avenged; and the honourable grave of the
other, on Loudon-hill [Sir Malcolm Wallace, the father of Sir William
Wallace, was killed in the year 1295, on
Loudon-hill, in a battle with the English.—(1800.)]
thou wilt cover with a monument of thine own glories. Low are laid my own
children, in this land of strife; but in thee I see, a son of Scotland,
that is to dry all our tears."
He embraced Wallace again
and again. And, as the veteran’s overflowing heart rendered him
garrulous, he expatiated on the energy with which the young victor had
pursued his conquests; and paralleled them with the brilliant actions he
had seen in his youth. While he thus discoursed, Wallace drew him towards
the castle, and there presented to him the two nephews of the Earl of Mar.
He paid some warm
compliments to Edwin, on his early success in the career of glory; and
then turning to Murray, "Ay !" said he, "it is joy to me,
to see the valiant house of Bothwell; in the third generation. Thy
grandfather and myself were boys together, at the coronation of Alexander
the Second; and that is eighty years ago. Since then, what have I not
seen! the death of two noble Scottish kings! our blooming princes ravished
from us by untimely fates! The throne sold to a coward; and at last seized
by a foreign power !—Then, in my own person! I have been the father of
as brave and beauteous a family as ever blessed a parent’s eye :—but
they are all torn from me. Two of my sons sleep on the plains of Dunbar;
my third, my dauntless William, since that fatal day has been kept a
prisoner in England; And my daughters, the tender bIossoms of my aged
years; they grew around me, the fairest lilies of the land: but they too
are passed away. The one, scorning the mere charms of youth, and
preferring an union with a soul that had long conversed with superior
regions, loved the sage of Ercildown. But my friend lost this rose of his
bosom, and I the child of my heart, ere she had been a year his wife.Then
was my last, and only daughter married to the Lord Mar; and in giving
birth to my dear Isabella she too died. Ah, my good young knight, were it
not for that sweet child, the living image of her mother, who in the very
spring of youth was cropt and fell; I should be alone :—my hoary head
would descend to the grave, unwept, unregretted!"
The joy of the old man
having recalled such melancholy remembrances, he wept upon the shoulder of
Edwin; who had drawn so near, that the story, which was begun to Murray,
was ended to him. To give the mourning father time to recover himself,
Wallace was moving away, when he was met by Ker, bringing information that
a youth had just arrived in b!eathless haste from Stirling, with a sealed
packet, which he would not deliver into any hands but those of Sir William
Wallace. Wallace requested his friends to show every attention to the Lord
of Thirlestane, and then withdrew to meet the messenger.
On his entering the
ante-room, the youth sprung forwards; but suddenly checking himself; he
stood, as if irresolute whom to address.
"This is Sir William
Wallace, young man," said Ker; "deliver your embassy."
At these words, the youth
pulled a packet from his bosom, and putting it into the chiefs hand,
retired in confusion. Wallace gave orders to Ker to take care of him; and
then turned to inspect its contents. He wondered from whom it could come;
aware of no Scot in Stirljng who would dare to write to him while that
town was possessed by the enemy. But not losing a moment in conjecture, he
broke the seal.
How was he
startled at the first words! and how was every energy of his heart roused
to redoubled action, when he turned to the signature! The first words in
the letter were these:-
"A daughter, trembling for the life of
her father, presumes to address Sir William Wallace." The signature
was" Helen Mar." He began the letter again.
"A daughter, trembling for the life of
her father, presumes to address Sir William Wallace. Alas! it will be a
long letter! for it is to tell of our countless distresses. You have been
his deliverer from the sword, from chains, and from the waves. Refuse not
to save him again, to whom you have so often given life; and hasten, brave
Wallace, to preserve the Earl of Mar from the scaffold.
"A cruel deception brought him from
the Isle of Bute; where you imagined you had left him in security. Lord
Aymer de Valence, escaping a second time from your sword, fled under
covert of the night, from Ayr to Stirling. Cressingham, the rapacious
robber of all our castles, found in him an apt coadjutor. They concerted
how to avenge your late successes: and Cressingham, eager to enrich
himself, while he flattered the resentments of his commander, suggested
that you, Sir William Wallace, our deliverer, and our enemy’s scourge,
would most easily be made to feel through the bosoms of your friends.
These cruel men have therefore determined, by a mock trial, to condemn, my
father to death: and thus, while they distress you, put themselves in
possession of his lands, with the semblance of justice.
"The substance of this most
unrighteous debate, was communicated to me by De Valence himself; thinking
to excuse his part in the affair, by proving to me, hew insensible he is
to the principles which move alike a patriot, and a man of honour.
"Having learnt from
some too well-informed spy, that Lord Mar had retired in peaceful
obscurity to Bute, these arch-enemies to our country, sent a body of men
disguised as Scots, to Gourock. There they despatched a messenger into the
island, to inform Lord Mar, that Sir William Wallace was on the banks of
the frith, waiting to converse with him. My noble father, unsuspicious of
treachery, hurried to the summons. Lady Mar accompanied him; and so both
fell into the snare.
"They were brought
prisoners to Stirling; where another affliction awaited him :—he was to
see his daughter, and his sister, in captivity.
"After I had been
betrayed from St. Fillan’s monastery by the falsehoods of one Scottish
knight; and rescued from his power by the gallantry of another; I sought
the protection of my aunt, Lady Ruthven, who then dwelt at Alloa on the
banks of the Forth. Her husband had been invited to Ayr, by some
treacherous requisition of the Governor Arnulf; and with many other lords
was thrown into prison. Report says, bravest of men ! that you have given
freedom to my betrayed uncle.
"The moment Lord
Ruthven’s person was secured, his estates were seized; and my aunt and
myself being found at Alloa, we were carried prisoners to this city. Alas!
we had then no valiant arm to preserve us from our enemies!—Lady Ruthven’s
first-born son, was slain in the fatal day of Dunbar; and in terror of the
like fate, she has placed her eldest surviving boy, in a convent.
"Some days after our
arrival, my dear father was brought to Stirling. Though a captive in the
town, I was not then confined to any closer durance than the walls. While
he was yet passing through the streets, rumour told my aunt, that the
Scottish lord then leading to prison, was her beloved brother. She flew to
me, in an agony, to tell me the dreadful tidings. I heard no more, saw no
more, till, having rushed into the streets, and bursting through every
obstacle of crowd and soldiers, I found myself clasped in my father’s
arms—in his shackled arms !—What a moment was that !—Where was Sir
William Wallace in that hour? Where the brave unknown knight, who had
sworn to me, to seek my father, and defend him with his life ?— Both
were absent, and he was in chains.
"My grief and
distraction baffled the attempts of the guards to part us: and what became
of me, I know not, till I found myself lying on a couch, attended by many
women, and supported by my aunt. When I had recovered to lamentation, and
to tears, my aunt told me, I was in the apartments of the Deputy Warden.
He, with Cressingham, having gone out to meet the man they had so basely
drawn into their toils, De Valence, himself, saw the struggles of paternal
affection contending against the men who would have torn a senseless
daughter from his arms; and yet, merciless man! he separated us; and sent
me, with my aunt, a prisoner to his house.
"The next day, a
packet was put into my aunt’s hands, containing a few precious lines
from my father to me; also a letter from the Countess to Lady Ruthven,
full of your goodness to her, and to my father; and narrating the cruel
manner in which they had been ravished from the asylum in which you had
placed them. She then said, that could she find means of apprising you of
the danger in which she and her husband are now involved, she would be
sure of. a second rescue. Whether she has blessedly found these means I
know not; for all communication between us, since the delivery of that
letter, has been rendered impracticable. The messenger that brought the
packet, was a good Southron, who had been won by Lady Mar’s entreaties.
But on his quitting our apartments, he was seized by a servant of De
Valence, and on the same day put publicly to death; to intimidate all
others, from the like compassion to the sufferings of unhappy Scotland.
Oh! Sir William Wallace, will not your sword reach these men of blood!
"Earl de Valence
compelled my aunt to yield the packet to him. We had already read it,
therefore did not regret it on that head, but feared the information it
might give relative to you. In consequence of this circumstance, I was
made a closer prisoner. But captivity could have no terrors for me, did it
not divide me from my father. And, grief on grief! what words have I to
write it? they have CONDEMNED HIM TO DIE! That fatal letter of my
step-mother’s, was brought out against him; and as your adherent, Sir
William Wallace, they have sentenced him to lose his head!
"I have knelt to Earl de
Valence; I have implored my father’s life at his hands; but to no
purpose. He tells me, that Cressingham, at his side; and Ormsby, by
letters from Scone; declare it necessary, that an execution of consequence
should be made, to appal the discontented Scots; and that as no lord is
more esteemed in Scotland than the Earl of Mar, he
must be the sacrifice!
"Hasten then, my
father’s preserver, and friend! hasten to save him !—Oh, fly, for the
sake of the country he loves: for the sake of the hapless beings dependent
on his protection !—I shall be on my knees, till I hear your trumpet
before the walls; for in you, and heaven, now rest all the hopes of Helen
A cold dew stood on the
limbs of Wallace, as he closed the letter. It might be too late! The
sentence was passed on the Earl, and his executioners were prompt as
cruel: the axe might already have fallen!
He called to Ker, for the
messenger to be brought in. He entered. Wallace inquired, how long he had
been from Stirling. "Only thirty-four hours," replied the youth;
adding, that he had travelled night and day, for fear the news of the
risings in Annandale, and the taking of Berwick, should precipitate the
"I accompany you this
instant;" cried Wallace. "Ker, see that the troops get under
arms." As he spoke, he turned into the room where he had left the
knight of Thirlestane.
Maitland," said he, willing to avoid exciting his alarm, "there
is more work for us at Stirling. Lord Aymer de Valence has again escaped
the death we thought had overtaken him; and is now in that citadel.— I
have just received a summons thither, which I must obey." At these
words, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick gave a shout, and rushed from the apartment.
Wallace looked after him for a moment, and then continued—"Follow
us with your prayers, Sir Richard; and I shall not despair of sending
blessed tidings to the banks of the Lauder."
happened?" inquired Murray, who saw that something more than the
escape of De Valence, had been imparted to his general.
"We must spare this
good old man;" returned he, "and have him conducted to his home,
before I declare it publicly; but the Earl of Mar is again a prisoner, and
Murray, who instantly
comprehended his uncle’s danger, speeded the departure of Sir Richard;
and, as Wallace held his stirrup, the chief laid his hand on his head and
blessed him: "The seer of Ercildown is too ill to bring his
benediction himself, but I breathe it over this heroic brow!" Wallace
bowed his head in silence; and the bridle being in the hand of Lord
Andrew, he led the horse out of the eastern gate of the town; where,
taking leave of the veteran knight, he soon rejoined his commander, whom
he found in the midst of his chieftains.
He had informed them of the
Earl of Mar’s danger; and the policy, as well
as justice, of rescuing so powerful and patriotic a nobleman from the
threatened execution. Lord Ruthven needed no arguments, to precipitate him
to the assistance of his brother, and his wife; and the anxieties of the
affectionate Edwin were all awake, when he knew that his mother was a
prisoner. Lord Andrew smiled proudly, when he returned his cousin’s
letter to Wallace : —"We shall have the rogue on the nail
yet," cried he; my uncle’s brave
head is not ordained to fall by the stroke of such a coward!"
"So I believe,"
replied Wallace; and then turning to Lord Dundaff—" My Lord;"
said he, "I leave you governor of Berwick."
The veteran warrior grasped Wallace’s
hand.—"To be your representative in this fortress, is the proudest
station this war-worn frame hath ever filled.—My son must be my
representative with you in the field." He waved Sir John Graham
towards him: the young knight advanced; and Lord Dundaff, placing his son’s
hands upon his target, continued, "Swear, that as this defends the
body, you will ever strive to cover Scotland from her enemies; and that
from this hour, you will be the faithful friend and follower of Sir
returned Graham, kissing the shield. [This
circumstance is recorded of Sir John Graham and his noble father, who was
David Graham, Lord of Dundaff and Kincardine, and a descendant of the
renowned Graham from whom the dyke is named.— Our brave Sir Thomas
Graham, Lord Lyndoch, is of the same ancestry.-(1809)]
Wallace pressed his hand: "I have brothers around me, rather than
what the world calls friends! And with such valour, such fidelity to aid
me, can I be otherwise than a victor? Heaven’s anointed sword is with
Edwin, who stood near this
rite of generous enthusiasm, softly whispered to Wallace, as he turned
towards his troops; "But amongst all these brothers, cease not to
remember Edwin—the youngest and the least. Ah, my beloved general, what
Jonathan was to David, I would be to thee!"
Wallace looked on him with
penetrating tenderness; his heart was suddenly wrung by a recollection,
which the words of Edwin had recalled. "But thy love. Edwin!
passes not the love of woman!" "But it equals it,"
replied he; "what has been done for thee, I would do; only love me,
as David did Jonathan, and I shall be the happiest of the happy."
"Be happy then, dear boy I" answered Wallace; "for all that
ever beat in human breast, for friend or brother, lives in my heart for
At that moment Sir John
Graham rejoined them; and some other captains coming up, Wallace made the
proper military dispositions, and every man took his station at the head
of his division.
Until the men had marched
far beyond the chance of rumours reaching Thirlestane, they were not
informed of the Earl of Mar’s danger. They conceived their present
errand was the recapture of De Valence. "But at a proper
moment;" said Wallace, "they shall know the whole truth: for,
added he, "as it is a law of equity, that what concerns all, should
be approved by all; and that common dangers should be repelled by united
efforts; the people who follow our standards, not as hirelings, but with
willing spirits, ought to know our reasons for requiring their
"They who follow
you;" said Graham, "have too much confidence in their leader, to
require any reasons for his movements."
"It is to place that
confidence on a sure foundation, my brave friends," returned Wallace,
"that I explain, what there is no just reason to conceal. Should
policy ever compel me to strike a blow, without previously telling my
agents wherefore, I should then draw upon their faith; and expect that
confidence in my honour and arms, which I now place on their discretion
Exordiums were not
requisite to nerve every limb, and to strengthen every heart, in the
toilsome journey. Mountains were climbed, vast plains traversed, rivers
forded, and precipices crossed, without one man in the ranks lingering on
his steps, or dropping his head upon his pike, to catch a moment’s
slumber. Those who had fought with Wallace, longed to redouble their fame
under his command; and they who had recently embraced his standard, panted
with a virtuous ambition to rival those first-born in arms.
Sir Roger Kirkpatrick had
been the first to fly to arms, on the march to Stirling being mentioned;
and when Wallace stood forward, to declare that rest should be dispensed
with till Stirling fell; full of a fierce joy, the ardent knight darted
over every obstacle to reach his aim. He flew to the van of his troops,
and hailing them forward: "Come on !" cried he, "and in the
blood of Cressingham, let us for ever sink King Edward’s Scottish
The shouts of the men, who
seemed to drink in the spirit that blazed from Kirkpatrick’s eyes, made
the echoes of Lammermuir ring with a long-estranged noise. It was the
voice of liberty. Leaping every bound, the eager van led the way; and,
with prodigious perseverance, dragging their war-machines in the rear, the
rest pressed on, till they reached the Canon side. At the moment the
foaming steed of Wallace, smoking with the labours of a long and rapid
march, was plunging into the stream to take the ford, Ker snatched the
bridle of the horse :—"My Lord," cried he, "a man on full
speed from Douglas castle, has brought this packet."
In his march from Ayr,
Wallace had left Sir Eustace Maxwell governor of that castle, and Monteith
as his lieutenant.
Wallace opened the packet,
and read as follows:-
"The patriots in
Annandale have been beaten by Lord de Warenne. Sir John Monteith (who
volunteered to head them,) is taken prisoner, with twelve hundred men.
"Earl de Warenne comes
to resume his arrogant title of Lord Warden of Scotland; and thereby to
relieve his deputy, Aymer de Valence; who is recalled to take possession
of the lordship of Pembroke. In pursuance of his usurping commission, the
Earl is now marching rapidly towards the Lothians, in the hope of
intercepting you in progress.
"Thanks to the
constant information you send us of your movements, for being enabled to
apprise you of this danger! I should have attempted to have checked the
Southron, by annoying his flanks, had not his numbers rendered such an
enterprise on my part hopeless. But his aim being to come up with you; if
you meet him in the van, we shall have him in the rear; and, so
surrounded, he must be cut to pieces. Surely the tree you planted in
Dumbarton, is not now to be blasted !—Ever my General’s and Scotland’s
Wallace hastily engraved with
his dagger’s point, upon his gauntlet, " Reviresco ! [Reviresco! means
Ibud again! This encouraging word is now the motto
of the Maxwell arms—(1809.)] Our sun is
above!" and desiring it might be given to the messenger, to carry to Sir
Eustace Maxwell, he refixed himself in his saddle, and spurred over the Canon.
The moon was near her meridian,
as the wearied troops halted on the deep shadows of the Carse of Stirling. All
around them was desolation; the sword, and the fire, had been there; not in
open declared warfare, but under the darkness of midnight, and impelled by
rapacity and wantonness; hence from the base of the rock, even to the foot of
the Clackmannan hills, all lay a smoking wilderness.
An hour’s rest was sufficient
to restore every exhausted power, to the limbs of the determined followers of
Wallace. And, as the morning dawned, the sentinels on the ramparts of the
town, were not only surprised to see a host below, but that part,(—by the
most indefatigable labour, and a silence like death,—) had not merely passed
the ditch, but having gained the counterscarp, had fixed their moveable
towers; and were at that instant overlooking the highest bastions. The
mangonels, and petraries, and other implements for battering walls; and the
balista, with every efficient means of throwing missive weapons, were ready to
discharge their artillery upon the heads of the besieged.
At a sight so unexpected, which
seemed to have arisen out of the earth like an exhalation, (with such
muteness, and expedition, had the Scottish operations been carried on,) the
Southrons, struck with dread, fled a moment from the walls; but immediately
recovering their presence of mind, they returned, and discharged a cloud of
arrows upon their assailants. A messenger, meanwhile, was sent into the
citadel, to apprise De Valence, and the Governor Cressingham, of the assault.
The interior gates, now sent forth thousands to the walls: but in proportion
to the number which approached, the greater was the harvest of death prepared
for the terrible arm of Wallace; whose tremendous war-wolfs, throwing
prodigious stones; and lighter springalls, casting forth brazen darts, swept
away file after file of the reinforcements. It grieved the noble heart of the
Scottish commander, to see so many valiant men urged to inevitable
destruction; but still they advanced; and that his own might be preserved,
they must fall. To shorten the bloody contest, his direful weapons were worked
with redoubled energy; and so mortal a shower fell, that the heavens seemed to
rain iron. The crushed, and stricken enemy, shrinking under the mighty
tempest, forsook their ground.
The ramparts deserted, Wallace
sprung from his tower, upon the walls. At that moment, De Valence opened one
of the gates: and, at the head of a formidable body, charged the nearest
Scots. A good soldier is never taken unawares, and Murray and Graham were
prepared to receive him. Furiously driving him to a retrograde motion, they
forced him back into the town. But there, all was confusion; Wallace, with his
resolute followers had already put Cressingham, and his legions to flight;
and, closely pursued by Kirkpatrick, they threw themselves into the castle.
Meanwhile the victorious Wallace surrounded the amazed De Valence; who, caught
in double toils, called to his men to fight for their King, and neither give
nor take quarter.
The brave fellows too strictly
obeyed: and while they fell on all sides, he supported them with a courage,
which, honor of Wallace’s vengeance, for his grandfathers death, and the
attempt on his own life in the hall at Dumbarton, rendered desperate. At last
he encountered the conquering chief, arm to arm. Great was the dismay of De
Valence, at this meeting: but as death was now all he saw before him, he
resolved, if he must die, that the soul of his enemy should attend him to the
He fought; not with the steady
valour of a warrior, determined to vanquish, or to die; but with the fury
of despair; with the violence of a hyena, thirsting for the blood of her
opponent. Drunk with rage, he made a desperate plunge at the heart of
Wallace; a plunge, armed with execrations, and all his strength: but his
sword missed its aim, and entered the side of a youth who, at that moment
had thrown himself before his general. Wallace saw where the deadly blow
fell; and instantly closing on the Earl with a vengeance in his eyes,
which reminded his now determined victim, of the horrid vision he had seen
in the burning Barns of Ayr—with one grasp of his arm, the incensed
chief hurled him to the ground; and setting his foot upon his breast,
would have buried his dagger their; had not De Valence dropped his
uplifted sword, and with honor in every feature, raised his clasped hand
in speechless supplication.
Wallace suspended the blow;
and De Valence exclaimed; "My life! this once again, gallant Wallace!
by your hopes of heaven, grant me mercy!"
Wallace looked on the
trembling recreant, with a glance, which, had he possessed the soul of a
man, would have made him grasp at death, rather than deserve a second.
"And hast thou escaped me again ?" cried Wallace; then turning
his indignant eyes from the abject Earl, to his bleeding friend, "I
yield him his life, Edwin, and you, perhaps, are slain ?"
"Forget not your own
bright principle, to avenge me," said Edwin, as brightly smiling:
"he has only wounded me. But you are safe, and I hardly feel a
Wallace replaced his dagger in
his girdle. "Rise, Lord De Valence: it is my honour, not my will,
that grants your life. You threw away your arms! I cannot strike even a
murderer, who bares his breast. I give you that mercy, you denied to
nineteen unoffending, defenceless old men; whose hoary heads, your
ruthless axe, brought with blood to the ground. Let memory be the sword, I
While he spoke, De Valence had
risen, and stood, conscience-struck, before the majestic mien of Wallace.
Them was something in this denunciation, that sounded like the
irreversible decree of a divinity; and the condemned wretch quaked beneath
the threat, while he panted for revenge.
The whole of the survivors in
De Valence’s train, having surrendered themselves when their leader
fell; in a few minutes. Wallace was surrounded by his chieftains, bringing
in the colours, and the swords of their prisoners.
Ramsay," said he, to a brave and courteous knight, who with his
kinsman, William Blair, had joined him in the Lothians; "I confide
Earl de Valence, to your care. See that he is strongly guarded; and has
every respect, according to the honour of him to whom I commit this
[An interesting little account, but too
long for a marginal note, will be given in the Appendix to this work;
relating to the families of Ramsay and Blair, eminently loyal to their
king and country from earliest record, to the present times; and to one of
whose ancestors James the Fifth of Scotland presented a splendid memorial
of such their lasting character. It is now in the possession of Dr.
Jefferson of Brighten, whose lady is descended from this honourable stock.—-(1840)]
The town was now in possession
of the Scots; and Wallace, having sent off the rest of his prisoners to
safe quarters, reiterated his persuasions to Edwin, to leave the ground,
and submit his wounds to the surgeon.—" No, no," replied he;
"the same hand that gave me this, inflicted a worse on my general at
Dumbarton: he kept the field then; and shall I retire now, and disgrace my
example? No, my brother; you would not have me so disprove my
"Do as you will,"
answered Wallace, with a gratefied smile; "so that you preserve a
life, that must never again be risked to save mine. While it is necessary
for me to live, my Almighty Captain will shield me: but when his word goes
forth, that I shall be recalled, it will not be in the power of
friendship, nor of hosts, to turn the steel from my breast. Therefore,
dearest Edwin, throw not yourself
away, in defending, what is in the bands of Heaven; to be lent, or to be
withdrawn at will."
Edwin bowed his modest
head; and having suffered a balsam to be poured into his wound, braced his
brigandine over his breast; and was again at the side of his men, just as
he had joined Kirkpatrick before the citadel. The gates were firmly
closed: and the dismayed Cressingham was panting behind its walls, as
Wallace commanded the parley to be sounded. Afraid of trusting himself
within arrow-shot of an enemy, who he believed conquered by witchcraft,
the terrified governor sent his lieutenant upon the walls to answer the
The herald of the Scots
demanded the immediate surrender of the place. Cressingham was at that
instant informed by a messenger, who had arrived too late the preceding
night to be allowed to disturb his slumbers, that De Warenne was
approaching with an immense army. Inflated with new confidence, he mounted
the wall himself, and in haughty language returned for answer, "That
he would fall under the towers of the citadel, before he would surrender
to a Scottish rebel. And as an example of the fate, which such a
delinquent merits;" continued he, "I will change the milder
sentence passed on Lord Mar, and immediately hang him, and all his family,
on these ramparts, in sight of your insurgent army."
"Then;" cried the
herald, "thus says Sir William Wallace—If even one hair on the
heads of the Earl of Mar, and his family, fall with violence to the
ground; every Southron soul, who has this day surrendered to the Scottish
arms, shall lose his head by the axe."
"We are used to the
blood of traitors," cried Cressingham, "and mind not its scent.
But the army of Earl de Warenne is at hand: and it is at the peril of all
your necks, for the rebel, your master, to put his threat in execution.
Withdraw, or you shall see the dead bodies of Donald Mar, and his family,
fringing these battlements; for no terms do we keep with man, woman, or
child, who is linked with treason!"
At these words, an arrow
winged from a hand behind Cressingham, flew directly to the unvisored face
of Wallace: but it struck too high, and ringing against his helmet fell to
resounded from every Scottish lip; while indignant at so villanous a
rupture of the parley, every bow was drawn to the head; and a flight of
arrows, armed with retribution, flew towards the battlements. All hands
were now at work, to bring the towers to the wall; and mounting on them,
while the archers by their rapid showers drove the men from the ramparts,
soldiers below, with pickaxes, dug into the wall to make a breach.
Cressingham began to fear
that his boasted auxiliaries might arrive too late; but determining to
gain time at least, he shot flights of darts, and large stones, from a
thousand engines; also discharged burning combustibles over the ramparts,
in hopes of setting fire to the enemy’s attacking machines.
But all his promptitude
proved of no effect. The walls were giving way in parts; and Wallace was
mounting by scaling-ladders, and clasping the parapets with bridges from
his towers. Driven to extremity, Cressingham resolved to try the
attachment of the Scots for Lord Mar; and even at the moment when their
chief had seized the barbican and outer ballium, this sanguinary
politician ordered the imprisoned Earl to be brought out upon the wall of
the inner ballia. A rope was round his neck; which was instantly run
through a groove, that projected from the nearest tower.
At this sight, horror froze
the ardent blood of Wallace. But the intrepid Earl, descrying his friend
on the ladder which might soon carry him to the summit of the battlement,
exclaimed, "Forward! Let not my span of life, stand between my
country and this glorious day for Scotland’s freedom!"
"Execute the sentence !"
cried the infuriate Cressingham.
At these words, Murray and Edwin
precipitated themselves upon the ramparts; and mowed down all before them,
in a direction towards their uncle. The lieutenant who held the cord,
aware of the impolicy of the cruel mandate, hesitated to fulfil it; and
now fearing a rescue from the impetuous Scots, hurried his victim off the
works, back to his prison. Meanwhile, Cressingham perceiving that all
would be lost, should he suffer the enemy to gain this wall also, sent
such numbers upon the brave Scots who had followed the cousins, that,
overcoming some, and repelling others, they threw Murray, with a sudden
shock, I over the ramparts. Edwin was surrounded; and his successful
adversaries were bearing him off, struggling and bleeding, when Wallace,
springing like a lioness on hunters carrying away her young, rushed in
singly amongst them. He seized Edwin; and while his falchion flashed
terrible threatenings in their eyes, with a backward step he fought his
passage to one of the wooden towers he had fastened to the walk.
Cressingham, being wounded in the head,
commanded a parley to be sounded.
"We have already taken Lord de Valence
and his host prisoners;" returned Wallace; "and we grant you no
cessation of hostilities, till you deliver up the Earl of Mar and his
family; and surrender the castle into our hands."
"Think not, proud boaster
!" cried the herald of Cressingham, "that we ask a parley, to
conciliate. It was to tell you, that if you do not draw off directly, not
only the Earl of Mar, and his family, but every Scottish prisoner within
these walls, shall perish in your sight?’
While he yet spoke, the
Southrons uttered a great shout, and the Scots looking up, beheld several
high poles erected on the roof of the keep, and the Earl of Mar, as
before, was led forward. But he seemed no longer the bold and tranquil
patriot He was surrounded by shrieking female forms, clinging to his
knees; and his trembling hands were lifted to heaven, as if imploring its
cried Wallace, in a voice whose thundering mandate rung from tower to
tower. "The instant he dies, Lord Aymer de Valence shall
He had only to make the
sign, and in a few minutes that nobleman appeared between Ramsay and
Kirkpatrick. "Earl," exclaimed Wallace, "though I granted
your life in the field with reluctance, yet here I am ashamed to put it in
danger. But your own people compel me. Look on that spectacle! A venerable
father, in the midst of his family; he, and they, doomed to an ignominious
and instant death, unless I betray my country, and abandon these walls!
Were I weak enough to purchase their lives at such an expense, they could
not survive that disgrace. But that they shall not die, while I have power
to preserve them, is my resolve and my duty !—Life, then, for
life: yours for this family!"
his voice towards the keep; "The moment;" cried he, "in
which that vile cord, presses too closely on the neck of the Earl of Mar,
or any of his blood, the axe shall sever the head of Lord de Valence from
De Valence was now seen on
the top of one of the besieging towers. He was pale as death. He trembled;
but not with dismay only; ten thousand varying emotions tore his breast.
To be thus set up as a monument of his own defeat; to be threatened with
execution, by an enemy he had contemned; to be exposed to such
indignities, by the unthinking ferocity of his colleague; filled him with
such contending passions of revenge, against friends and foes, that he
forgot the present fear of death, in turbulent wishes to deprive of life,
all by whom he suffered.
Cressingham became alarmed,
on seeing the retaliating menace of Wallace, brought so directly before
his view: and dreading the vengeance of De Valence’s powerful family, he
ordered a herald to say, that if Wallace would draw off his troops to the
outer ballium, and the English chief along with them, the Lord Mar and his
family should be taken from their perilous situation; and he would
consider on terms of surrender.
Aware that Cressingham only
wanted to gain time, until De Warenne should arrive, Wallace determined to
foil him with his own weapons, and make the gaining of the castle the
consequence of vanquishing the Earl. He told the now perplexed governor,
that he should consider Lord de Valence as the hostage of safety for Lord
Mar, and his family; and therefore he consented to withdraw his men from
the inner ballium, till the setting of the sun; at which hour he should
expect a herald, with the surrender of the fortress.
Thinking that he had caught
the Scottish chief in a snare; and that the Lord Warden’s army would be
upon him long before the expiration of the armistice; Cressingham
congratulated himself upon this manoeuvre; and resolving that the moment
Earl de Warenne should appear, Lord Mar should be secretly destroyed in
the dungeons, he ordered him to their security again.
Wallace fully comprehended
what were his enemy’s views; and what ought to be his own measures, as
soon as he saw the unhappy group disappear from the battlements of the
keep. He then recalled his men from the inner ballium wall; and stationing
several detachments along the ramparts, and in the towers of the outer
wall, committed De Valence to the stronghold of the barbican, under the
especial charge of Lord Ruthven: who was indeed eager to hold the means in
his own hand, that were to check the threatened danger of relatives so
dear to him, as were the prisoners in the castle.
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