'My son, I tell thee soothfastly
No gift is like to liberty
Then never live in slavery.'
DURING this time King Edward had been in a far-off
land called Flanders. Now he returned, and full of anger against Wallace,
gathered an army and once more marched to Scotland. 'had I been in England,'
he said, 'Wallacedurst not have done such cruelties to my people.'
'I chose but my time in England,' replied Wallace, I
chose but the time when King Edward was out of it, as King Edward chose his
time in Scotland when he found the same without a leader. For when the
nobles took him as a friend to decide upon the rights of those who were
struggling for the throne, he tried to conquer the kingdom for himself.'
It was a great and mighty army that now marched into
Scotland with King Edward at its head. Horsemen and footmen, great lords and
barons, and all the proudest and best warriors of England were there.
Wallace, too, had a large army, but his were mostly foot soldiers. Only the
great in Scotland rode in those days, and as you know, few of the great
nobles had joined Wallace.
Wallace knew that
it was best not to try to fight a battle against the whole strength of
Edward's army. He hoped rather to weaken the English by hunger and
weariness. So he laid waste the country through which they would have to
pass. And when Edward came, he found only a desolate, deserted land, with no
food for his men to eat, and no enemy for them to fight.
But Wallace and his army were never far off. Whenever
they saw a chance of attacking a small company of the English, they came out
of their hiding-place and fell upon them. having killed as many as they
could, they would dash away again and wait for another chance.
Thus with many little fights, or skirmishes as they
are called, by the way, Edward marched far into Scotland without fighting
any great battle, or even finding out where Wallace and his men really were.
At last Edward grew tired of marching through a barren
land, in search of an enemy who would not fight an open battle. He had given
orders to his men to turn and march home again, when a sad thing for
Scotland happened. Two of the jealous Scottish nobles came to Edward and
told him where the Scottish army lay. They were not far off, in a forest,
near a town called Falkirk. These wicked nobles not only told Edward where
the Scottish army lay, but they also told what plans Wallace had made.
'Hearing that you are turning homeward,' they said, 'he is going to take you
by surprise at night and attack you from behind.'
'Thanks be to God, who hitherto hath brought us safe
through every danger,' cried Edward, when he heard the news. 'They shall not
need to follow me, since I shall forthwith go to meet them.'
Not a moment was lost. The order to advance was given.
The King himself was the first to put on his armour, the first to mount his
horse. Without rest, the soldiers marched onward while daylight lasted. When
night fell they lay down where they were, clad in their armour, their
weapons beside them and their shields for pillows. Horse and horseman lay
together, so that each man was ready at the least alarm to vault into his
saddle. Among them, like any other soldier, lay the King beside his horse.
In the middle of the night a sudden cry arose. The
enemy was upon them! Their King was wounded I In a moment all was bustle and
preparation. Every man seized his weapon and stood ready in his place. But
there was no enemy. The King indeed was wounded, but by his own horse, which
had kicked him in the side, and broken two of his ribs.
As the camp was now thoroughly aroused, and as morning
was not far off, the King gave the order to advance. He himself, in spite of
his hurt, mounted upon his horse and led the way.
Through the grey morning light the army marched, and
as the first beams of the sun shone out they were. flashed back from the
glittering spears of the Scots army. At last the long-looked-for enemy was
It was but a little army compared
with the English. But Wallace was not afraid. He divided his men into four
companies and placed them to the best advantage. 'I have brought you to the
ring,' he said, 'now let me see bow you can dance,' meaning, 'I have brought
you to the battlefield, let me see how you will fight.'
And bravely and well did these Scotsmen fight. But it
was the people only, the foot soldiers, who fought. For hardly had the
battle begun than the horsemen turned and rode from the field, without
giving or taking a blow. Oh bitter was the heart of Wallace as he watched
them go! The nobles had forsaken him.
famous English archers showered arrows on the Scottish spearmen. So true was
their aim that it was said that every archer carried four-and-twenty
Scottish lives beneath his belt. Which meant that he carried twenty-four
arrows in his quiver, and with every arrow he killed a man.
The English horsemen, splendid in glittering steel
armour, charged the sturdy Scottish archers. They, although they were armed
only with their bows and arrows and short daggers, would not yield. To a man
they fell where they stood. So gallant and brave were they that even their
enemies praised them.
But no bravery could
stand against such numbers and such skill. Wallace, seeing that the battle
was hopelessly lost, commanded his men to retire. With his best knights
round him he fought bravely to the last, keeping the enemy oil' until his
soldiers had found shelter in the forest behind.
Nearly fifteen thousand Scots were slain upon the
field, among them Sir John the Graham, the dear friend of Wallace.
Next day 'Wallace returned to bury the dead and to
seek for the body of his friend.
When they him found and good Wallace him saw,
lighted down, took him before them a'
In arms up. Beholding his pale
He kissed him, and cried full oft Alas!
My best brother in world
that ever I had,
My faithful friend when I was hardest stead.
So he mourned his loss.
When the rough soldiers saw how sad their master was,
they sorrowed with him. Then taking up the dead body of the Graham, they
carried him to the church at Falkirk. Over his grave they laid a stone and
carved these words upon it,
'Here lies Sir John the
Graham, both wight and wise,
One of the chiefs who rescued Scotland
A better knight not to the world was lent,
Than was good
Graham of truth and hardiment.'
Thus Wallace had
lost his wife and his friend, and in spite of his brave struggles it seemed
as if he would lose his country. He gave up his post of Governor of
Scotland. The happiness of his country was all he longed for. He saw that it
was useless to struggle against the jealousy of the barons. They would never
consent to be ruled by him. He could not even hope to lead his army to
victory when the nobles were ever ready to desert him, as they did at
So Wallace once more became a simple
It is said that in this
battle of Falkirk, Robert the Bruce, who afterwards became such a good King
in Scotland, fought on the side of the English. After the battle Bruce and
Wallace met. They were both brave men, and Bruce was filled with admiration
for the courage and skill of Wallace. 'But,' he said, 'what is the use of
it? You cannot overcome so great a King as Edward. And if you could, the
Scots would never make you King. Why do you not yield to him as all the
other nobles have done?'
'I do not fight for
the crown,' replied Wallace, 'I neither desire it nor deserve it. It is
yours by right. But because of your sloth and idleness the people have no
leader. So they follow me. I fight only for the liberty of my country, and
should surely have won it, if you and the other nobles had but done your
part. But you choose base slavery with safety rather than honest liberty
with danger. Follow, hug the fortune, then, of which you think so highly. As
for me, I will die free in my own country. My love for it shall remain as
long is my life lasts.'
At these words Bruce
burst into tears, and never again did he fight for Edward.
Edward now marched through Scotland, but he found only
a deserted country. Burned towns and ruined castles met him everywhere, for
the people had destroyed their homes, rather than that they should fall into
the hands of the English King. His soldiers began to starve, and at last,
angry and sullen, he was forced to march back to England, leaving the North
Hardly had he left the
country when messengers came to him, telling him that the southern Scots had
again risen, and were driving out every English soldier whom he had left to
guard his conquests. So again he gathered an army and marched back to
Scotland, and for seven long years the struggle lasted. Five times during
those years did Edward's army ravage Scotland. Broken, crushed, but still
unconquered, the people fought on. Had they only been united under some
strong leader, the struggle would not have lasted so long. But since Wallace
had given up in despair no great leader had arisen.