THE Countess’s chivalric tribute
from the window, gave Wallace reason to anticipate her company in his
visit to Lady Ruthven; and on finding the room vacant, he despatched Edwin
for his mother; that he might not be distressed-by the unchecked advances
of a woman whom, as the wife of Lord Mar, he was obliged to see, and whose
weakness he pitied, as she belonged to a sex for which, in consideration
of the felicity once bestowed him by woman, he felt a peculiar tenderness.
Respect the Countess he could not; nor, indeed, could he feel any
gratitude for a preference which seemed
to him to have no foundations in the only true basis of love—the virtues
of the object. For as she acted against every moral law, against his
declared sentiments, it was evident that she placed little value on his
esteem; and therefore he despised, while he pitied, a human creature
ungovernably yielding herself to the sway of her passions.
In the midst of thoughts so
little to her advantage, Lady Mar entered the room. Wallace turned to
meet, her; while she, hastening towards him, and dropping on one knee,
exclaimed, "Let me be the first woman in Scotland to acknowledge its
Wallace put forth both his
hands to raise her; and, smiling, replied; "Lady Mar, you would do me
an honour I can never claim."
"How !" cried she,
starting up. "What, then, was that cry I heard? Did they not call
you, ‘prince,' and ‘sovereign?’ Did not my Lord Buchan —"
overpowered, she left the sentence unfinished, sunk on a seat, and burst
into tears. At that moment, she saw her anticipated crown fall from her
head; and having united the gaining of Wallace, with his acquisition of
this dignity, all her hopes seemed again the sport of winds. She felt as
if Wallace had eluded her power; for it was by the ambition-serving acts
of her kinsman, that she had meant to bind him to her love; and now all
was rejected, and she wept in despair. He gazed at her with amazement.
What these emotions, and his elevation, had to do with each other, he
could not guess; but, recollecting her manner of mentioning Lord Buchan’s
name, he answered, "Lord Buchan I have just seen. He and Lord March
came upon the Carse, at the time I went thither to meet my gallant
countrymen; and these two noblemen, though so lately the friends of
Edward, united with the rest in proclaiming me Regent."
This word dried the tears
of Lady Mar. She saw the shadow of royalty behind it; and summoning
artifice, to conceal the joy of her heart, she calmly said, "Do not
too severely condemn this weakness: it is not that of vain wishes for your
aggrandisement. You are the same to Joanna Mar, whether as a monarch or a
private man, so long as you possess that supremacy in all excellence,
which first gained her esteem. It is for Scotland’s sake alone, that I
wish you to be her king. You have taught me to forget all selfish desires—to
respect myself," cried she; "and, from this hour, I conjure you
to wipe from your memory all my folly—all my love—"
With the last word her
bosom heaved tumultuously, and she rose in agitation. Wallace now gazed on
her with redoubled wonder. She saw it; and hearing a foot in the passage,
turned, and, grasping his hand, said, in a soft and hurried tone,
"Forgive, that what is entwined with my heart, should cost me some
pangs to wrest thence again! only respect me, and I am comforted."
Wallace in silence pressed her hand, and the door opened.
Lady Ruthven entered. The
Countess, whose present aim was to throw the virtue of Wallace off its
guard, and to take that by sap, which she found resisted open attack, with
a penitential air disappeared by another passage. Edwin’s gentle mother
was followed by the same youth who had brought Helen’s packet to
Berwick. It was Walter Hay, anxious to be recognised by his benefactor, to
whom his recovered health had rendered his person strange. Wallace
received him with kindness, and told him to bear his grateful respects to
his lady, for her care of her charge. Lord Ruthven with others, soon
entered; and, at the appointed hour, they attended their chief to the
The council-hall was
already filled with the lords who had brought their clans to the Scottish
standard. On the entrance of Wallace, they rose; and Mar coming forward,
followed by the heralds and other officers of ceremony, saluted him with
the due forms of Regent, and led him to the throne: Wallace ascended; but
it was only to take thence a packet, which had been deposited for him on
its cushion; and coming down again, he laid the parchment on the
"I can do all things
best;" said he, "when I am upon a level with my friends."
He then broke the seal of the packet. It was from the Prince of Wales,
agreeing to Wallace’s proposed exchange of prisoners; but denouncing him
as the instigator of the rebellion, and threatening him with a future
judgment from his incensed king, for the mischief he had wrought in the
realm of Scotland. The letter was finished with a demand, that the town
and citadel of Berwick should be surrendered to England, as a gage for the
quiet of the borders till Edward should return.
Kirkpatrick scoffed at the
audacious menace of the young prince. "He should come amongst us,
like a man," cried he; "and we would soon show him, who it is
that works mischief in Scotland! Ày, even on his back, we would write the
chastisement due to the offender."
"Be not angry with
him, my friend," returned Wallace; "these threats are words of
course from the son of Edward. Did he not fear both our rights, and our
arms, he would not so readily accord with our propositions. You see, every
Scottish prisoner is to be on the borders by a certain day! and, to
satisfy that impatient valour, (which I, your friend, would never check,
but when it loses itself in a furor too nearly resembling that of our
enemies;) I intend to make your prowess once again the theme of their
discourse. You will retake your castles in Annandale I"
"Give me but the
means, to recover those stout gates of our country," cried
Kirkpatrick, "and I will warrant you to keep the keys in my hand till
"Three thousand men are at your command. When the prisoners pass each
other on the Cheviots, the armistice will terminate. You may then fall
back upon Annandale; and, that night, light your own fires in Torthorald!
Send the expelled garrisons into Northumberland! and show this haughty
prince, that we know how to replenish his depopulated towns."
"But first I will set
my mark on them !" cried Kirkpatrick, with one of those laughs, which
ever preluded some savage proposal.
"I can guess, it would be no
gentle one," returned Wallace: "Why, brave knight, will you ever
sully the fair field of your fame, with an ensanguined tide ?"
"It is the fashion of
the times," replied Kirkpatrick, roughly: "you only, my
victorious general, who, perhaps, had most cause to go with the stream,
have chosen a path of your own. But look around! see our burns, which the
Southrons made run with Scottish blood; our hillocks, swoln with the
cairns of our slain; the highways blocked up with the graves of the
murdered; our lands filled with maimed clansmen, who purchased life of our
ruthless tyrants, by the loss of eyes and limbs! And, shall we talk of
gentle methods, with the perpetrators. of these horrors? Sir William
Wallace, you would make women of us."
Kirkpatrick!" resounded from every voice, "you insult the
Kirkpatrick stood proudly
frowning, with his left hand on the hilt of his sword. Wallace, by a
motion, hushed the tumult, and spoke—" No true chiefs of Scotland
can offer me greater respect, than frankly to trust me with his
"Though we disagree in some
points:" cried Kirkpatrick, "I am ready to die for him at any
time; for I believe a trustier Scot treads not the earth; but I repeat, why,
by this mincing mercy, seek to turn our soldiers into
"I seek to make them men:" replied
Wallace; "to be aware that they fight with fellow-creatures, with
whom they may one day be friends: and not like the furious savages of old
Scandinavia, drink the blood of eternal enmity. I would neither have my
chieftains set examples of cruelty, nor degrade themselves by imitating
the barbarities of our enemies. That Scotland bleeds at every pore, is
true; . but let peace be our aim, and we shall heal all her wounds."
"Then I am not to cut off the ears of the
freebooters in Annandale?" cried Kirkpatrick, with a good-humoured
smile: "Have it as you will, my general; only, you must now christen
me, to wash the war-stain from my hands. The rite of my infancy was
performed as became a soldier’s son: my fount was my father’s helmet;
and the first pap I sucked, lay on the point of his sword." [All
who are conversant with the traditionary accounts of the ancient Scottish
manners, must be well acquainted with these barbarous customs. They were
employed to perpetuate a ferocity against their enemies, similar to that
which was inculcated by resembling means into the young Hannibal —(1809.)]
"You have not shamed your nurse!" cried
Murray. " Nor will I," answered Kirkpatrick, "while the arm
that slew Cressingham remains unwithered."
While he spoke, Ker entered, to ask permission to
introduce a messenger from Earl de Warenne. Wallace gave consent. It was
Sir Hugh le de Spencer, a near kinsman of the Earl of Hereford, the
tumultuary, constable of England. He was the envoy who had brought the
Prince of Wales’s despatches to Stirling. Wallaee was standing when he
entered, and so were the chieftains, but at his appearance they sat down.
Wallace retained his position.
"I come," cried the Southron
knight, "from the Lord Warden of Scotland; who, like my prince, too
greatly condescends, to do otherwise
than command, where now he treats; I come to the leader of this rebellion,
William Wallace, to receive an answer to the terms granted by the clemency
of my master, the son of his liege lord, to this misled kingdom."
replied Sir William Wallace," when the Southron lords delegate a
messenger to me, who knows how to respect the representative of the nation
to which he is sent, and the agents of his own country, I shall give them
my reply. You may withdraw."
The Southron stood,
resolute to remain where he was: "Do you know, proud
Scot," cried he, "to whom you dare address this imperious
language? I am the nephew of the lord high constable of England."
"It is pity,"
cried Murray, looking coolly up from the table "that he is not here
to take his kinsman into custody!"
Le de Spencer fiercely half
drew his sword: "Sir, this insult——"
"Must be put up with:"
cried Wallace, interrupting him, and motioning Edwin to lay
his hand on the sword; "you have insulted the nation to which you
were sent on a peaceful errand; and having thus invited the resentment of
every chief here present, you cannot justly complain against their
indignation. But in consideration of your youth, and probable ignorance of what becomes the
character of an ambassador, I grant you
the protection your behaviour has forfeited. Sir Alexander Scrymgeour,"
said he, turning to him, "you will guard Sir Hugh le de Spencer to
the Earl de Warenne; and tell that nobleman I am ready to answer any
The young Southron,
frowning, followed Scrymgeour from the hall; and Wallace,
turning to Murray, "My friend," said he, "it is not well
to stimulate insolence, by repartee." This young man’s speech,
though an insult to the nation, was directed to
me; and by me only it ought to have been answered; and that seriously. The
haughty spirit of this man should have been quelled, not incensed; and,
had you proceeded one word further, you would have given him an apparently
just cause of complaint against you; and of that, my friend, I am most
sensibly jealous. It is not policy, nor virtue, to be rigorous to the
extent of justice."
returned Murray, blushing, "that my wits are too many for me; ever
throwing me, like Phaeton’s horses, into the midst of some fiery
mischief. But pardon me now, and I promise to rein them close, when next
I see this prancing knight."
"Bravo, my Lord Andrew" cried Kirkpatrick, in an affected whisper, "I am not always to
be bird alone, under the whip of our Regent; you have had a few stripes,
and now look a little of my feather!"
"Like as a swan to a vulture,
good Roger," answered Murray.
Wallace attended not to
this tilting of humour between the chieftains, but engaged himself in
close discourse with the elder nobles, at the higher end of the hall.
In half an hour, Scryrngeour returned, and with him Baron Hilton. He
brought an apology from De Warenne, for the behaviour of his ambassador;
and added his persuasions to the demands of England, that the Regent would surrender Berwick, not only as a pledge for the Scots keeping the
truce on the borders, but as a proof of his confidence in prince
Wallace answered, that he
had no reason to show extraordinary confidence in one, who manifested, by
such a requisition, that he had no faith in Scotland; and there-fore,
neither as a proof of confidence, nor as a gage of her word, should
Scotland, a victorious power, surrender the eastern door of her kingdom,
to the vanquished. Wallace