Regent’s re-entrance into the citadel of Stirling, being on the evening
preceding the day he had promised should see the English lords depart for
their country; De Warenne, as a mark of respect to a man whom he could not
but regard with admiration, went to the barbican-gate to bid him welcome.
Wallace appeared; and as the cavalcade of noble
Southrons, who had lately commanded beyond the Tay, followed him. Murray
glanced his eye around, and said with a smile to De Warenne, "You
see, Sir Earl, how we Scots keep our word !" and then he added,
"You leave Stirling tomorrow; but these remain, till Lord Douglas
opens their prison-doors."
"I cannot but acquiesce in the justice
of your commander’s determination;" returned De Warenne; "and
to comfort these gentlemen under their captivity, I can only tell them,
that if anything can reconcile them to the loss of liberty, it is, being
the prisoners of Sir William Wallace."
After having transferred
his captives to the charge of Lord Mar, Wallace went alone to the chamber
of Montgomery to see whether the state of his wounds would allow him to
march on the morrow. While he was yet there, an invitation arrived from
the Countess of Mar, requesting his presence at an entertainment which, by
her husband’s consent, she meant to give that night at Snawdoun, to the
Southron lords before their departure for England.
"I fear you dare not
expend your strength on this party?" inquired Wallace, turning to
returned he; "but I shall see you amidst your noble friends, at some
future period. When the peace, your arms must win, is established between
the two nations, I shall then revisit Scotland; and openly declare my
friendship for Sir William Wallace?"
"As these are your sentiments;"
replied Wallace, "I shall hope, that you will unite your influence,
with that of the brave Earl of Gloucester, to persuade your King to stop
this bloodshed; for it is no vain boast to declare, that he may bury Scotland
beneath her slaughtered sons, but they never will again consent to
acknowledge any right in an usurper."
"Sanguinary have been
the instruments of my love-reign’s rule in Scotland," replied
Montgomery; "but such cruelty is foreign from his gallant heart; and
without offending that high-souled patriotism, which would make me revere
its possessor, were he the lowliest man in your legions; allow me, noblest
of Scots, to plead one word in vindication of him, to whom my allegiance
is pledged. Had he come hither, conducted by war alone, what would Edward
have been worse than any other conqueror? But on the reverse, was not his
right to the supremacy of Scotland, acknowledged by the prince who
contended for the crown? and besides, did not all the great lords swear
fealty to England, on the day he nominated their king?"
"Had you not been
under these impressions, brave Montgomery, I believe I never should have
seen you in arms against Scotland; but I will remove them by a simple
answer. All the princes whom you speak of, excepting Bruce of Annandale,
did assent to the newly-offered claim of Edward on Scotland; but who,
amongst them, had any probable chance for the throne, but Bruce, and
Baliol? Such ready acquiescence, was meant to create them one. Bruce,
conscious of his inherent rights, rejected the iniquitous demand of
Edward; Baliol accorded with it, and was made a king. All our chiefs who
were base enough to worship the rising sun, and, I may say, contemn the
God of truth, swore to the falsehood. Others remained gloomily silent; and
the bravest of them retired to the Highlands; where they dwelt amongst
their mountains, till the cries of Scotland called them again to fight her
"Thus did Edward
establish himself, as the liege lord of this kingdom; and whether the
oppression which followed, were his or his agent’s immediate acts, it
matters not, for he made them his own by his after-conduct. When
remonstrances were sent to London, he neither punished nor reprimanded the
delinquents, but marched an armed force into our country, to compel us to
be trampled on. It was not an Alexander, nor a Charlemagne, coming in his
strength, to subdue ancient enemies; or to aggrandise his name, by
vanquishing nations far remote, with whom he could have no particular
affinity! Terrible as such ambition was, it is innocence to what Edward
has done. He came, in the first instance, to Scotland as a friend: the
nation committed its dearest interests to his virtue; they put their hands
into his, and he bound them in shackles. Was this honour? Was this the
right of conquest? The cheek of Alexander would have blushed deep as his
Tynan robe; and the face of Charlemagne turned pale as his lilies, at the
bare suspicion of being capable of such a deed.
"No, Lord Montgomery,
it is not our conqueror, we are opposing; it is a traitor, who, under the
mask of friendship, has attempted to usurp our rights, destroy our
liberties, and make a desert of our once happy country. This is the true
statement of the case: and though I wish not to make a subject outrage his
sovereign, yet truth demands of you to say to Edward, that to withdraw his
pretensions, from this exhausted country, is the restitution we may justly
claim—is all that we wish. Let him leave us in peace, and we shall no
longer make war upon him. But if he persist, (which the ambassadors from
the Prince of Wales denounce,) even as Samson drew the temple on himself,
to destroy his enemies, Scotland will discharge itself, upon the valleys
of England; and there compel them, to share the fate in which we may be
doomed to perish."
"I will think of this
discourse;" returned Montgomery, "when I am far distant; and
rely on it, noble Wallace, that I will assert the privilege of my birth,
and counsel my king as becomes an honest man."
"Highly would he estimate such
counsel;" cried Wallace, "had he virtue to feel, that he who
will not be unjust to his sovereign’s enemies, must be of an honour,
that will bind him with double fidelity to his King. Such proof, give your
sovereign; and, if he have one spark of that greatness of mind, which you
say he possesses, though he may not adopt your advice, he must respect the
As Wallace pressed the hand
of his new friend, to leave him to repose; a messenger entered from Lord
Mar, to request the Regent’s presence in his closet. He found him with
Lord de Warenne.
The latter presented him
with another despatch from the Prince of Wales. It was to say, that news
had reached him of Wallace’s design to attack the castles garrisoned by
England, on the eastern coast. Should this information prove true, he (the
Prince) declared, that as a punishment for such increasing audacity, he
would put Lord Douglas into closer confinement; and while the Southron
fleets would inevitably baffle Wallace’s attempts; the moment the
exchange of prisoners was completed on the borders, an army from England
should enter Scotland, and ravage it with fire and sword.
When Wallace had heard this
despatch, he smiled and said, "The deed is done, my Lord de Warenne.
Both the castles and the fleets are taken; and what punishment must we now
expect from this terrible threatener?"
"Little from him, or
his headlong counsellors," replied De Warenne; but Thomas Earl of
Lancaster, the King’s nephew, is come from abroad with a numerous army.
He is to conduct the Scottish prisoners to the borders; and then, to fall
upon Scotland with all his strength; unless you previously: surrender, not
only Berwick, but Stirling, and the whole of the district between the
Forth and the Tweed, into his hands."
"My Lord de Warenne,"
replied Wallace, "you can expect but one return to these absurd
demands. I shall accompany you myself to the Scottish borders, and there
make my reply."
De Warenne, who did indeed
look for this answer, replied, "I anticipated that such would be your
determination; and I have to regret that the wild counsels which surround
my prince, precipitate him into conduct which must, draw much blood on
both sides, before his royal father’s presence can regain what he has
"Ah, my Lord"
replied Wallace, "is it to be nothing but war? Have you now a
stronghold of any force, in all the Highlands? is not the greater part of
the Lowlands free? and before this day month, not a rood of land in
Scotland, is likely to hold a Southron soldier. We conquer, but it is for
our own. Why then this unreceding determination to invade us? Not a blade
of grass, would I disturb on the other side of Cheviot, if we might have
peace. Let Edward yield us that, and though he has pierced us with many
wounds, we will yet forgive him."
De Warenne shook his head:
"I know my King too well, to expect pacific measures. He may die with
the sword in his hand; but he will never grant an hour’s repose to this
country, till it submits to his sceptre."
Wallace, "the sword must be the portion of him and his !—Ruthless
tyrant! If the blood of Abel called for vengeance on his murderer, what
must be the phials of wrath, which are reserved for thee ?"
A flush overspread the face of De
Warenne at this apostrophe and forcing a smile, "This strict notion
of right," said he, "is very well in declamation; but how would
it crop the wings of conquerors, and shorten the warrior’s arm, did they
measure by this rule !"
"How would it, indeed
! "replied Wallace; "and that they should, is most devoutly to
be wished. All warfare that is not defensive, is criminal; and he who
draws his sword to oppress, or merely to aggrandize, is a murderer and a
robber. This is the plain truth, Lord de Wareune."
"I have never considered it in
that light:" returned the Earl, "nor shall I turn philosopher
now. I revere your principle, Sir William Wallace; but it is too sublime
to be mine. Nay, nor would it be politic, for one who holds his
possessions in England by the right of conquest, to question the virtue of
the deed. By the sword, my ancestors gained their estates; and with the
sword, I have no objection to extend my territories?
Wallace now saw that De
Warenne, though a man of honour, was not one of virtue. Though his amiable
nature, made him gracious in the midst of hostility; and his good
dispositions, would not allow him to act disgracefully in any concern;
yet, duty to God, seemed a poet’s flight; to him. Educated in the forms
of religion, without knowing its spirit, he despised them; and believing
the Deity too wise, to be affected by mere virtuous shows of any kind; his
ignorance of the sublime benevolence, which disdains not to provide food
even for the "sparrow ere it falls," made him think the Creator
of all, too great to earn about the actions of men: hence, being without
the true principles of good,—virtue, as virtue, was nonsense to Earl de
Wallace did not answer his
remark; and the conference soon closed.