Sir William~ez_rsquo~s Man for Aye
Abigail H. Leskey
~ez_ldquo~How old were you when you first fought
the Southrons?' Margaret asked, looking up inquiringly at her
grandfather. He smiled, knowing that this was her way of asking for a
~ez_ldquo~ 'Twas 1297, and I was but a lad of
sixteen,~ez_rdquo~ he said, and paused for a moment. ~ez_ldquo~No more than eight years,
and you~ez_rsquo~ll be that age. Aye, and better of looks than ever I was!~ez_rdquo~ He
Margaret smiled sweetly, but she wanted
a story, not compliments. ~ez_ldquo~Please, tell me,~ez_rdquo~ she begged. She sat down on
the floor beside his seat and leaned her head on his knee. The fire
crackled and in the dimness outside the cottage the wind howled, driving
the snow before it.
~ez_ldquo~As often I've told you, I never saw my
parents tae remember them. My mother was Elspeth, and she died having
me. My father was Andrew and died of a fever when I was a wee babe. May
God rest their souls! I was christened Kenneth, and raised by my aunt's
husband, my auld uncle Adam; my aunt had died lang before I was born. We
lived here on this estate, though not in this house. The laird then was
Sir Alan Wallace, as good a lord tae us as ever lived. He and Lady
Wallace had four sons: Andrew, the heir; Malcolm; William; and John.
John was twa years my elder, and William twa years older than him.*
~ez_ldquo~Though I was but a peasant, John and I
played when we were bairns; and sometimes William would play wi us. He
was always the leader, in whatever oor game might be. It was as natural
tae us tae follow him as it was for him tae be in command. But he was
ever a lad old for his age, and would rather study wi the priest or
practice wi sword and bow than play, even when he was little older than
you are. I mind that there was something about him as far back as I can
remember, a sort of strangeness. As if he lived somehow a wee higher,
and lonely. ~ez_lsquo~Tis hard tae be explaining. We were lads together; and I
fought under him for years; and there is still verra much I dinna quite
understand about him. ~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~What did he look like?~ez_rdquo~ asked
~ez_ldquo~ He was always verra tall for his age;
when he was grown he was taller than any other man I hae ever seen. His
eyes were blue or gray, sometimes one and sometimes the other. Like the
sea or the sky. And his hair looked brown when the sun was no shining,
but a' gold and red when it was.
~ez_ldquo~I mind thinking sometimes that he
looked as if he saw more than most could see. My uncle thought ~ez_lsquo~twas
sure that he'd grow up tae be a priest.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~Because he was sae fond of studying wi
oor priest, of course (did I say that the priest
[*The Liber Pluscardensis mentions Andrew. A
letter to Edward I mentions Malcolm. The Chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft
was Sir Alan's younger brother?). He learned
tae read and write; he could even read Latin and speak it like a monk!
But he was just as good wi his weapons; he could manage a sword many a
grown man couldna hae wielded rightly, when he was still but a lad.
~ez_ldquo~Now when I was five and he was nine or
so, you remember that oor good king Alexander died in an accident. And
no sae verra lang after, his only heir, the Maid of Norway, died tae,
and so there was a dispute ower wha should be king. Well, the next thing
we kenned, that lang-legged Edward of England took it into his head tae
decide for us. Like it was concerning him! And he picked John Balliol,
and he became king. I remember hearing of it well. ~ez_lsquo~Twas the week after
the one in which I fell out of a tree and broke my leg. I hae ever had a
knack of doing such things. We were playing that the tree was a castle,
and I was one of the defenders, and my friend Donald knocked me doon
without meaning tae. I remember how William a~ez_rsquo~ but carried me tae my
house, and how my uncle scolded. The priest came and set it; he knew of
healing. But I hae wandered frae my tale.
~ez_ldquo~We went on well enough for a while
after King John was crowned, but then Edward started ordering oor king
about. And then, in 1296, when I'm fifteen, the fellow marches into
Scotland, dethrones oor king, and expects everybody tae swear fealty tae
him. Most did. Sir Alan did, though it pleased him not, seeing that
Edward had no right tae oor homage. He was no oor king!
~ez_ldquo~The priest died that year. I'm
thinking it broke his heart for Longshanks (that fox, Edward) tae hae
Scotland. He was aye against the English meddling in oor affairs; he
would even preach about it.
~ez_ldquo~Verra early the same year, William
married Hugh Bradfute's daughter Marion, and so he left his father's
house. She was here a few times, and I hae never seen a sweeter face.
About the same time Malcolm entered the following of the Earl of
Carrick, Robert Bruce.
~ez_ldquo~In May of 1297, I was mending a plow
when a red-headed fellow on a tired pony galloped into the village. As I
didna recognize him, I went over tae see what was up.
~ez_ldquo~'I maun see Sir Alan Wallace,' he
~ez_ldquo~'He is there,' I said, pointing
towards the house. Without another word the man galloped on. Of course I
wasna the only one tae see him. By the time he came back there was quite
a wee crowd, a' asking the other what the redheaded fellow's business
could be wi the laird.
~ez_ldquo~Sir Alan was wi him, and I could tell
he had received news that was no trifle. He ordered a' wha were in the
fields tae come, and sae we set off tae fetch them. When everyone was
there, Sir Alan said hoarsely that the redheaded man (John of
Clydesdale, he called him) had come tae tell him that the Sheriff of
Lanark had murdered his son William's wife~ez_mdash~but here he had tae stop.
Between women greeting and men shouting, 'twas nae use speaking. If we
had seen a Southron then 'twould hae gone hard wi him. I felt verra ill
inside. When the roar had died doon a wee, Sir Alan, fighting doon his
ain feeling, said 'He has killed the sheriff.' A few of the men shouted
approvingly. 'He has determined tae free Scotland or die in the
attempt,' said Sir Alan. His voice shook slightly. Suddenly he made a
gesture tae John of Clydesdale and strode back towards the house.
~ez_ldquo~John of Clydesdale said, 'I am one of
the thirty wha were wi Wallace when he killed the sheriff. His army
numbered thirty-eight, including myself, when I left. He is wanting as
many soldiers as may be. I am going back tomorrow, before sunrise. Any
of you wha can fight are more than welcome tae come wi me. Meet me three
hours after midnight, by the great oak just outside of the village.'
~ez_ldquo~'What'll Sir Alan be saying tae this?~ez_rdquo~
one of us asked.
~ez_ldquo~'You hae his permission,' replied
John. ~ez_ldquo~But he intends not tae ken that you are leaving. He has sworn
fealty tae Edward. Sae dinna mention tae him that you're going!' John
~ez_ldquo~Well, Margaret, I told my Uncle Adam I
was going. And he told me I was not. Are you wanting tae be hanged by
the Southrons?~ez_rdquo~ he asked. I said nothing mair, but didna change my mind,
though sorry I was tae disoblige my uncle. I was mair than angry at what
had happened tae William's wife, and liked the Southrons having taken
ower as little as anyone. And I thought that if William was going tae
get himself hanged trying tae drive them out, 'twould be shame tae let
him be hanged alone...not but that thirty-eight Scots was a good
beginning of an army...
~ez_ldquo~Such I was thinking when I went tae
bed, but I was a lad of sixteen, and by midnight (of course I didna
sleep) I was thinking of doing valorous deeds. Twa hours later, I was
imagining winning my spurs in victorious battle against Langshanks
himself. I set out well before the appointed time, as I didna want tae
risk somehow missing the others and being left behind. And I thought
that I might as well be awake under the tree as in the cottage. Being
quite slim, I left by the window. The door squeaked, you see, and my
uncle was no a heavy sleeper. Behind the house, I put on what of my
clothing I wasna already wearing, made sure I had my knife, and ran off
towards the great oak~ez_mdash~the one I~ez_rsquo~ve showed you sae often~ez_mdash~hoping I was
thinking of the right tree. There were twa men there already; John of
Clydesdale and Neil, wha was some three years my elder. More trickled
in, mostly frae my age tae a little over twenty. Few of us beneath the
oak were married men.
~ez_ldquo~At about halfway between twa and
three, we heard hoof-beats, and wha should come, leading his horse, but
the laird's son John! 'Nae,' he said, as if we had asked, 'my father
doesna ken I am here. I kenned he would rather not, so I and a few
weapons came out by a window.'
~ez_ldquo~'Tis the night for it,' muttered my
guid friend Donald, the slim lad beside me.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~How did you ken wha people were if
~ez_ldquo~By the voices. We numbered nineteen,
no including John of Clydesdale, when we were a' gathered. The way we
were armed! Some had bows, and John Wallace had a sword. About eight of
us had spears, twa brought scythes, and the other five or so had only
knives. The weapons John Wallace brought were few, and were given tae
the grown men present. But we were a' armed somehow. John Wallace wore a
coat of chain-mail tae wide for him, and three of us had helmets! Any
one could hae seen that we were mostly peasants, that many of us were
only lads, and that this was a verra hastily planned venture.~ez_rdquo~ Kenneth
laughed. The picture they had made under that tree had come vividly
~ez_ldquo~Please, go on!~ez_rdquo~ begged Margaret, as
eagerly as if she had not already heard this story dozens of times.
~ez_ldquo~We started off. And what do you think
happened? Donald sprained his ankle halfway there. We couldna take him
back, sae there was nothing tae do but put him on one of the twa horses
and go on. And it was a driech day. The sun came up bright enough, but
then it decided otherwise. By the time we reached the Cartlane crags, we
~ez_ldquo~I'd never seen the like of the Crags.
Great, dark, dripping cliffs leaning over the Mouse water! We'd no gone
far when a Scot wi an ax appeared frae nowhere and demanded oor
business. But then he recognized John of Clydesdale and after a few
words we passed on.
~ez_ldquo~I tell you truly, the Crags might hae
been a strong place tae gather an army, but they were enough on a driech
day tae make a man woeful. 'Twasna lang ere I was thinking this would
probably end in being hanged after a'. Then we found oor general, or
rather he found us. He looked so much older than when last I had seen
him that I was startled. He saw his brother. 'John!' he said. ~ez_ldquo~I was
hoping you would come!~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~John went tae him quickly, and they
embraced verra hard. Neither of them wept; that was not their way,
though many of us would hae in their places. Then they were calm as
ever, tae a' outward seeming, and William thanked John of Clydesdale for
his good work, and welcomed all of us by name.
~ez_ldquo~I remember meeting Sir John Graham,
wha William said was his right hand; he'd been wi him in the attack on
the sheriff. Sir John was a quiet-spoken young man, wha carried himself
as a knight should. Nothing much happened for twa or three days. I came
tae ken the other young men, and I acquired a spear and drilled wi the
others in using it. ~ez_rdquo~ Kenneth looked up above the hearth, where a long
spear hung on the wall. He curved his hand as if he felt the smooth
shaft in his palm.
~ez_ldquo~Was it that one?~ez_rdquo~ asked Margaret.
~ez_ldquo~Aye. I had already learned tae use
one, but I was drilled with the other fighters just the same. We began
tae ken how tae fight as ane. A' the time we were in the Cartlane Crags,
more Scots kept coming. Donald and I were much together. His ankle
~ez_ldquo~Then the day came when William told us
that he had learned that a party of Southron soldiers were bound for
somewhere north of us, and would be passing nearby. And we were going
tae keep them frae passing.
~ez_ldquo~Well, we found them, just where
William thought they would be, and we were on them before they even
kenned that we were there. That was my first fighting, and I canna say I
liked it much. It is a strange feeling, just at first, tae see a man and
ken that tis his life or yours. I was no sae guid at the fighting as I
had thought I would be. But I didna run, and I didna greet, and I wasna
killed, sae I maun no hae done sae verra badly either. The next time we
fought twas better, for I kenned what ~ez_lsquo~twould be like. The no kenning
how ~ez_lsquo~twould be had been the worst part of the first fighting. I mind
that one thing I saw even that early on was how William always seemed
tae ken just where he was needed most in the fighting, and would be
~ez_ldquo~I canna even begin tae tell you how
busy we were during this time. There seemed tae be about as many
Southrons as there are midges, and ~ez_lsquo~twas no uncommon tae fight twa
different groups of them in one day. ~ez_lsquo~Twas no long before I grew
accustomed tae the screech and clang of steel, and the sight of red
~ez_ldquo~A~ez_rsquo~ through this time oor numbers kept
growing. One morning, we found that we were going tae Scone tae drive
out the English justiciar, Ormsby. So off we went. We traveled fast,
although many of us were on foot.
~ez_ldquo~Partway we met wi Sir William of
Douglas and his following, wha were a~ez_rsquo~ mounted. I'm thinking that this
was planned, because after a few words he and his traveled along wi us.
I had heard rumors that we were not the only ones out for Scotland. Now
I saw that they were true. When we reached Scone, we went for the
justiciar~ez_mdash~wha was no tae be found. There was an open window at his
place, wi footprints, leading awa frae it, in the mud beneath. Windows
seemed tae be not unlike tae replace doors those days.
~ez_ldquo~There were many other English in Scone
though, and 'twas there I gained this scar.~ez_rdquo~ Kenneth pointed to a long
line high on his cheek. Margaret reached up to touch it gently.
~ez_ldquo~When we were finished in Scone, we
vanished. Sir William of Douglas and his men left us as quietly as they
had come. It seemed he'd only come for the attack on Ormsby.
~ez_ldquo~Then William began tae lead us through
the countryside north of the Forth and south of the Tay. It seemed like
there were English everywhere. As we went, we turned out the Southron
priests wha Edward had sent tae supplant honest Scots. The curses they
screamed at us! If half the things had befallen us that those priests
predicted and prayed for, we would a~ez_rsquo~ be dead and condemned mair times
by noo than I can be counting.
~ez_ldquo~When I say that William led us, I~ez_rsquo~m
truly meaning it. If we were attacking, he was in the front. If we had
tae retreat, which happened but seldom, he guarded the rear. He seldom
was mistaken in what was the best thing tae do, and sae we won small
victory after victory. He kenned wha a~ez_rsquo~ of us were, and what we were and
were not good at doing. When a man joined us wha had a blood feud
thirteen years old wi a man we already had, William talked tae them
until they swore by their patron saints tae drop the feud until Scotland
was free. And when a lad in oor wee army, supposed tae be fifteen, was
discovered tae be but twelve and sae sick for hame he was greeting at
night, oor general somehow managed tae get him sent back tae where he
belonged. He was tae young tae be fighting.
~ez_ldquo~Twas no long at a~ez_rsquo~ before I realized
that William was making himself quite a name among the English. We had
crossed paths wi a group of the Southrons, and were beginning tae fight;
but instead of fighting, the enemy were running. ~ez_lsquo~It~ez_rsquo~s the Wallace!~ez_rsquo~ one
of them shrieked, in much the same voice he might hae cried, ~ez_lsquo~It~ez_rsquo~s the
~ez_ldquo~~ez_rsquo~Twas during this time that oor war
cry became ~ez_ldquo~For the freedom of Scotland!~ez_rdquo~ and I~ez_rsquo~ll tell you how that
came about. At first if we shouted anything it was just whatever
happened tae enter oor heads. But as we drew together as a group, we
began tae shout oor general~ez_rsquo~s family name: ~ez_lsquo~Wallace! For Wallace!~ez_rsquo~ And I
remember when, one evening, William decided tae change that. He
mentioned that he had noticed what we were saying, and said, ~ez_ldquo~I am one
of you, my brothers, nae greater than any other. It is no right that you
should fight in my name. The day will come, soon or late, when I will
no be here tae lead you, but oor victory doesna depend on me or on any
other man. It depends on the will of God and the courage of a~ez_rsquo~ true
Scots together. Oor goal is Scotland~ez_rsquo~s freedom. Fight in its name!~ez_rdquo~ 
~ez_ldquo~As time after time we won oor
skirmishes, and had success in oor raids, we became verra confident. Why
couldna we overthrow the English throughout a~ez_rsquo~ Scotland, having such a
leader as Wallace? We took up residence in Selkirk Forest and oor
numbers grew rapidly. I remember Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, Sir Alexander
Scrymgeour, and others coming. We continued tae be verra busy, wi such
actions as attacks on baggage trains, ambushing a group of English
soldiers on their way tae somewhere, and the like. We heard rumors of a
great rising in the southwest; then that an English army was marching
tae crush it. My general sent out some scouts, wha confirmed what we'd
heard. Then we
[1. Liber Pluscardensis. This speech is
imagined, but according to this work, ~ez_ldquo~In all his doings, and in the
carrying out of every undertaking, he would exhort his comrades always
to have the cause of the freedom of Scotland before their eyes in
battle, and to charge in its name.~ez_rdquo~ ]
found that the southwest rising was
capitulating at Irvine. But we also had found that Sir Andrew de Moray
had been having a rising tae the north of us. And in August we marched
tae join forces wi him.
~ez_ldquo~'Twas wet marching. Such a wet year as that
I havena seen since. At last we met wi de Moray~ez_rsquo~s army. They were men
frae above the Forth, almost a~ez_rsquo~ of them. Sir Andrew was only a few years
older than my general. He was but lately wed, and his father was in the
Tower at London, or sae I heard. It seemed tae me that he and my general
quickly became close friends, and William was no a man tae hae many of
those. Apart frae his family, I think none but de Moray and Sir John
~ez_ldquo~Wallace headed off wi us tae siege
Dundee Castle. Sir Alexander Scrymgeour carried the royal standard.
Wallace still acknowledged John Balliol as king, though he was
imprisoned in the Tower at London. If anyone was king of Scotland, I'm
supposing 'twas him. But tae my mind, he had forfeited the kingship by
swearing fealty tae Langshanks for Scotland, and then giving in tae the
tyrant so easily. I was one wha called him ~ez_ldquo~Toom Tabard~ez_rdquo~-- but never in
my general's hearing.
~ez_ldquo~Dundee was a hard nut tae crack. We
were little farther than when we started when a messenger rode in on a
dripping horse. 'Where's~ez_mdash~William Wallace?' he gasped. We pointed out oor
general, and Donald and I followed, wishing tae hear the man~ez_rsquo~s news.
'Many English~ez_mdash~under~ez_mdash~Surrey and Cressingham. Heading~ez_mdash~north.' he got out.
The poor fellow was swaying. I dinna ken when or where he had started,
but I doubt he'd stopped since. Wallace thanked him, and told him tae
rest. I doubt my general was ever mair willingly obeyed. After a quick
discussion wi Graham and Scrymgeour, Wallace told us we maun make ready
tae march. 'We maun no let them pass the Forth.'
~ez_ldquo~Scrymgeour stayed behind tae lead the
people of Dundee in besieging the castle, and we headed south. Along the
way we rejoined de Moray and his army, and we headed south together.
~ez_ldquo~Were you afraid of the great English
army?~ez_rdquo~ asked Margaret.
Kenneth grinned. ~ez_ldquo~We headed for the
Brig of Stirling, over the River Forth. One of de Moray's scouts had
reported that that was where the Southrons were headed for sure. Not a
day tae soon did we reach it. The next morning we amused ourselves by
watching the English set up camp. It looked like they were planning tae
stay there for aye! Such a camp I'd never imagined even.
~ez_ldquo~For a few days nothing happened except
for that it rained without ceasing, and the Earl of Lennox and the
Steward of Scotland, with others, kept coming and talking wi oor
generals. But on the morning of the eleventh day of September, some of
the English marched across the brig ~ez_mdash~or rather, some of the Welsh they
had forced tae fight for them. But what did they do but march right back
again! Then the Steward and Lennox came and tried tae get their vassals
wha had joined us tae fight for the Southrons. If oor generals hadna
been there, it might hae gone badly wi them. Moray told them verra
plainly that there was nae place wi us for traitors. I was near, and saw
Lennox turn crimson. They left in a rush.
~ez_ldquo~We all were stationed in battle order.
I think after the Welsh had taken their wee walk, and those nobles had
turned up, oor generals were thinking this was the day. At last the
English came~ez_mdash~twa of them, and baith clergymen. One of them was tall and
round and walked in front. The other was short and thin, and seemed tae
think he was entering a dragon's den. I happened tae be positioned verra
close tae my general. The twa walked up~ez_mdash~that is, the first walked and
the second tottered~ez_mdash~tae where he was standing. The tall one offered a'
and sundry peace upon submission. A' and sundry of us soldiers roared wi
disapproval. The small cleric looked as if he might faint. My general
ordered silence, and it became sae quiet I could hear his horse (which
was standing beside him) chewing grass.
~ez_ldquo~'Carry back, tae those wha sent you,
this message,~ez_rdquo~ Wallace said ~ez_ldquo~that we are no come here tae sue for peace,
but prepared for battle, tae avenge oor wrongs and liberate oor country.
Let them approach when they please; they will find us prepared tae meet
them even tae their beards.' 
~ez_ldquo~The little clerk turned and all but
ran back tae the brig. The other followed mair slowly. I watched them
~ez_ldquo~Then soon came a sound of many hooves
and many horns. The Southrons were on the move. A grand sight they
were, wi banners of every color flying. But they passed that brig but
slowly, for it was only wide enough for twa.
~ez_ldquo~I remember that time of waiting for
them tae cross like it was but yesterday.~ez_rdquo~
Kenneth had forgotten Margaret,
forgotten that he was old and arthritic. He saw that September day more
clearly than he could see aught in the dimly lit cottage. ~ez_ldquo~It was a
rarely sunny day,~ez_rdquo~ he said in a low voice, remembering aloud. ~ez_ldquo~The Forth
was sae blue. My general was standing, watching the Southrons cross. His
horse was nuzzling his shoulder. When he was a lad, it seemed like he
was always followed by some creature or another, I remember. His helmet
was in his hand, and the sun shining off it and his mail coat, shining
like sun on snow. And his hair was flying back in the wind, all bright
red-golden. I mind he had that look, as if he saw mair than others could
[2. The Scottish War of Independence: Its
Antecedents and Effects, Volume 1. [William Burns; published 1874, James
Maclehose, 61 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow.] ]
~ez_ldquo~The Southrons kept coming. It seemed tae
me as if there could be no end tae them. I was wondering when we would
attack when Wallace mounted his horse, and put on his chain-mail hood
and his helmet. Then he blew his horn.
~ez_ldquo~The rest is muddled in my mind. There
were pipes skirling like they were possessed the whole time, I remember.
At one time I was running wi my spear towards the English, shouting my
loudest~ez_mdash~we were a' shouting~ez_mdash~~ez_lsquo~Freedom! For the freedom of Scotland!
Saorsa na h-Alba!~ez_rsquo~ and soon I found that we had cut the English on oor
side of the river off frae the brig, and nae mair could come over it.
And I saw my general fighting like the heroes of the old stories, his
sword dripping crimson and the battle-fierceness on his face, and some
of Moray~ez_rsquo~s men seemed tae be fighting half naked, and I kept slipping on
blood. And then a Southron knight on a bay horse rode straight at me,
and I stabbed the horse wi my spear, but it was for falling the wrong
way. And as I tried tae jump back I slipped, and heard a great crash and
splashing and screaming, and all went black.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~Oh!~ez_rdquo~ breathed Margaret. Her blue eyes
were almost unbelievably large.
~ez_ldquo~Then I found out that it was about an
hour later, judging frae the sun, my spear was sticking out of a bay
horse, and my head, right arm, and a bit of my chest were sticking out
frae under it, and the horse was no light. My head pained me, and I put
my free hand up tae it. Something sticky was matted in my hair, and my
hand came awa wi a red stain. I maun hae struck my head on something
when I fell. As best I could I looked about. Frae what I could see, I
judged that we'd won. Then quite close by I saw a lad I'd seen before. A
slight lad he was, and kept tae himself. I shouted, as well as I could
frae under a horse the size of Behemoth. Between the twa of us, we got
me out, bruised enough, but nae bones broken. Thanks be tae God, the
ground was soft there, so that I had sunk down into it a little and no
been crushed. I was verra mucky though.
~ez_ldquo~I saw that the brig was broken doon,
and floating in the river were~ez_mdash~but never mind that. I found out later
that the Steward and the Earl of Lennox had remembered they were
Scottish as soon as they found we had won. They attacked the English
fugitives. Surrey escaped alive, but Cressingham was killed in the
battle, which I doubt many regretted even among his own people. Edward
had made him Treasurer of Scotland, and he was well hated.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~What happened after the battle?~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~Sir Andrew de Moray had been hurt
badly in the fighting. This left the army and practically the country
under Wallace's command. He started a draft, but indeed 'twas little
needed. We commons of Scotland were only tae glad tae strike against the
English, for the most part, even if we defied oor lords tae do it. So
many men joined at that time that a~ez_rsquo~ was in confusion.
~ez_ldquo~So my general decided tae organize the
army, and we were organized. Out of every five one was over the other
four, and so on, up tae the generals~ez_mdash~or rather the general, for Sir
Andrew was no lang for this world. I was in the second level, over four
of the others and directly under a man frae Glasgow named James. Under
me were my old friend Donald, twa lads just come frae near Dundee, and
the quiet, slim lad wha had pulled me out frae under that monster of a
horse. He called himself Duncan. He didna talk much, and had a habit of
vanishing into the woods. I kenned not what tae make of him.
~ez_ldquo~This ordering helped greatly, for noo
everybody kenned exactly wha~ez_rsquo~s orders he should be obeying. The only
problem was that some, the newly come men especially, didna always care
tae obey orders.
~ez_ldquo~The weather that year was unco bad, as
I said. 'Twas devastating tae the crops. The people were like tae
starve, between the evil weather and the English having carried off
everything they could lay their hands on. We invaded England. That was
quite the odd thing, so used were we tae it being the other way. There
we found a great plenty of food, and so were able at the same time baith
tae keep Scotland frae famine, and tae show Edward that he wasna the
only one wha could make a devastating invasion. We made a ruin of the
land, wherever we went.
~ez_ldquo~There are Englishmen, and by this time
even some Scots, wha say that my general spared neither woman, bairn,
nor priest. It is a lie. He ordered us tae do such folk no harm. The man
wha harmed such was put tae death~ez_mdash~if he could be caught, and usually he
couldna. I did what I could tae protect the women and bairns, when I was
there, and so did most of us. But there were no a few wha had had their
wife or bairn or mother or father killed, and for some this had been the
death of their mercy as well. And also some men murdered simply for the
liking of it, or for plunder. Some of what was done in England, when
William wasna on the spot, makes me sick still tae think of it. I killed
a Scot once, tae save a wee screaming bairn, and hae never doubted that
I did right.
~ez_ldquo~I mind one time when oor general had
tae rescue three English clerics. I wasna present when he did this, but
I do remember how for the rest of oor time at Hexham those clergy dared
not leave him for fear of us. They followed him sae faithfully, I
thought 'twas a pity they were English and so couldna enlist.
~ez_ldquo~When we were back in Scotland, we
learned that Sir Andrew de Moray had died, which grieved my general and
a' of us much.
~ez_ldquo~We kenned that the English would be
coming back, like as not wi Edward himself at their head. It had been
good that he had been on the continent during the battle at the Brig of
Stirling, at war wi France. But we kenned he wouldna stay there for aye.
~ez_ldquo~There was a great meeting, and
Wallace went tae it. Quite a few of us came along tae, partly as it
might be out of curiosity, and partly because we thought we might be
~ez_ldquo~The meeting was tae choose a guardian
for the kingdom, as we were lacking a king. About half a dozen people
were proposed, one of them oor general. We all shouted at this proposal,
which made quite an impression on those there, as those of us wha had
invited ourselves tae the meeting numbered in the hundreds.
~ez_ldquo~They~ez_mdash~the nobles and knights~ez_mdash~argued over
wha should be Guardian for quite some time. Then someone asked oor
general if he had anything tae say. He said briefly that the English
would be invading again, and 'twould be well tae choose the guardian ere
they arrived. I think some of the arguing magnates considered this
insulting. The debate continued, and became a shouting quarrel. It got
so I was thinking swords would be drawn any minute. But in the end,
about three-fourths of those present managed tae agree that Wallace
should be Guardian, though some were no sae varra happy about it. I'm
inclined tae be thinking oor unexpected presence helped in bringing them
tae this decision. The main objection was that he wasna of high rank,
and wasna even a knight. One of the Earls there said tae this last that
he believed Wallace could be considered tae hae won his spurs at the
Brig of Stirling, and after another argument he knighted him. Then, wi
about a third of those magnates present looking as sour as if they were
drinking vinegar, he was formally made Guardian of Scotland, 'in the
name of the renowned Prince Lord John, etc.'  I mind that one of
those who came, all smiles and fair words, and congratulated Sir William
on his new position was Sir John of Mentieth, a kinsman of James the
Steward. No one could hae been guessing then what a Judas he would
~ez_ldquo~After Wallace became guardian we were
a' verra busy. By this time, we Scots had taken Dundee Castle (Sir
William made Sir Alexander Scrymgeour its constable), Stirling Castle,
and Berwick town, besides many other strong places. Scotland was in oor
hands, for the most part. But some of Edward's folk had come north,
interrupted the siege of Roxburgh, and retaken Berwick town. So right
soon after Sir William Wallace became Guardian of Scotland we marched
south, and found some English soldiers on St. Cuthbert's day. But they
decided no tae make oor better acquaintance, and left the field of
Stainmore without sae much as firing an arrow. We would hae pursued, but
Sir William forbade it. Then it was back north again and in early June
we headed for Fife, where some English had landed. 'Twas strangely hot
the day of the battle of Black Ironside, even though we were fighting in
the shade of the woods. The battle went off and on for I am no kenning
just how lang. I remember in one of the pauses, when baith sides had
drawn apart tae rest, Sir William carried water tae the wounded in a
helmet, instead of resting; he was aye thoughtful of even the least of
us. When it was ower we had won. Donald and the youngest of the lads
frae nigh Dundee were but little hurt, but the other of the Dundee lads
was killed, which I was greatly sorry for. We hadna become close
friends, but he had been there, and we had fought and eaten and marched
together. But noo we never would again. And the lad called Duncan I
could find nowhere.
~ez_ldquo~At last I found him in a clump of
bushes. He had a nasty wound high on his side, judging frae the blood on
his tunic. But he was sitting up.
~ez_ldquo~'Here, let me hae a look at that,' I
said, squatting down beside him.
~ez_ldquo~'No need of that,' he said shortly.
~ez_ldquo~'Not a deep wound then?'
~ez_ldquo~'I can bandage it myself.'
~ez_ldquo~'I think you should be letting me help
you. I've done it before.~ez_rdquo~ This was true; I was by this time knowing
well how tae bind a wound. I laid a hand on his tunic.
~ez_ldquo~'No, you canna!~ez_rdquo~ he cried, shrinking
awa frae me. He put out his hand tae keep me back. It came tae me then
that this Duncan wasna what he seemed. No lad ever had a hand like that.
~ez_ldquo~I sat doon a few feet awa, and said,
'I dinna ken what your name is, but sure as we're here it's no Duncan!~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~Swear by the cross of St Andrew never
tae tell aught of this!~ez_rdquo~ she ordered fiercely. I swore, without thinking
if ~ez_lsquo~twas guid sense tae do so. The lass took off her hood, which I'd
never seen her without, and I was sae surprised I forgot myself and
~ez_ldquo~She had yellow hair cut like a lad's,
and eyes like the blue shadows you see on the snow. Her face was as cold
as a statue~ez_rsquo~s. Never had I seen a lassie wi a face like that. Fair
indeed she was, but like a glinting icicle, or a drawn sword shining in
the moonlight. A lassie shouldna look sae hard and cold~ez_mdash~or be fighting
and calling herself Duncan! So I asked her name, and wha her father was.
She said her name was Bride; her father was dead, also her mother and
brother. In answer tae my look she said curtly,
~ez_ldquo~'Southrons' work. I was in the woods
and so escaped. When I came hame and found what had happened, I took my
father's spear, traded my clothes for these, and joined Wallace.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~'Why Duncan?' I could think of nothing
else tae say.
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~My brother~ez_mdash~was Duncan. I am doing
what he would hae done, had he lived.~ez_rdquo~ I asked her if she was afraid of
being killed. 'Twas a stupid enough question. 'No. Why should I be?' As
she said this, her face twisted wi pain, and I remembered that she was
~ez_ldquo~'Here,' I said, tearing off a piece of
my tunic. 'Bandage it wi this.' I gave it tae her. 'Call when you're
finished, and I'll help you back tae the others.' I walked some yards
awa, and looked into the forest. What do you think I heard after some
~ez_ldquo~What?~ez_rdquo~ she whispered.
~ez_ldquo~Footsteps! I drew my knife~ez_mdash~and then I
realized 'twas only James of Glasgow looking for me. Then Bride called,
and I called tae James. Between the twa of us we got her back tae camp
easily enough. She was wearing her hood again.
~ez_ldquo~In March, Langshanks had landed in
England again. When we kenned for certain he was on his way tae Scotland
we started moving people into the hills, and laying everything waste in
his path. When he invaded, early in July, he found verra little tae feed
his great army wi. And he didna catch us either, though we were ever at
hand tae attack foraging parties and such. I did my best tae keep an eye
out for Bride, wha seemed fearless. At last oor scouts found that the
English had decided tae fa' back. So Sir William determined tae take the
offensive, attacking them as they retreated. We reached Falkirk and
camped there, taking up much space for we were many. There were several
men of rank present. I remember that MacDuff, of the house of the Earls
of Fife was there, wi men of Fife; Sir John, brother of the Steward, wi
men frae Bute; and John Comyn, earl of Buchan, wi the earls of Dunbar
and Angus, his brothers-in-laws, and some others of his kin. They had
~ez_ldquo~I was walking about gathering firewood
when I noticed Dunbar and Angus talking low wi Buchan near the edge of
camp. Then they mounted and rode off, leaving Buchan looking after them
wi a thin smile. Something about this didna feel quite right, but I
reasoned tae myself that likely 'twas nothing of importance. Besides,
'twas no my business. The only time in my life when 'twould hae been
better if I hadna minded my ain business!~ez_rdquo~ Kenneth grimaced. ~ez_ldquo~That which
I'd seen kept coming back tae me a' the rest of that day and that night.
Mair than once was I on the point of telling someone. I felt as if I had
swallowed a live bird, and it was trying tae fly in my stomach. I
couldna sleep the night, until well after midnight.
"I woke in the morning tae Donald
shaking me. He always ran his words together when excited. 'Kenneth-the-Southrons-are-coming!'
I was a~ez_rsquo~ awake mair quickly that you might believe. There was nae time
tae ask questions. The fear ran through my mind that Angus and Dunbar
were tae blame for them finding us.
~ez_ldquo~The English stopped for a while on
nearby hills, about twa miles awa. When they came we were ready and
waiting. We Scots on foot were arranged into three shiltrons, a
formation we had practiced oft enough but not yet used. A shiltron is a
ring of us twa rows deep, wi oor spears pointing out all around. I was
kneeling, because I was in the outer row. Donald, Bride and James of
Glasgow were behind me, and the lad frae Dundee at my side. He looked a
wee scared; nae wonder, for if he was as much as sixteen he hadna been
that age long. He grinned at me through his thick freckles a bit
shakily, apologetically. ~ez_lsquo~The way this is looking, it~ez_rsquo~s glad I am tae
hae a guid friend beside me!~ez_rsquo~ he said. ~ez_lsquo~The Southrons look as thick over
there as swarming bees.~ez_rsquo~
~ez_ldquo~We were towards the left front of the
center shiltron. Between the shiltrons were the archers, mostly frae
Ettrick Forest, commanded by Sir John, brother of the Steward.
~ez_ldquo~The sun shone verra warm for sae early
in the day. I shifted my weight uneasily tae the other knee. I was just
about sick at the thought of a battle, as I never had been before. My
uneasiness was for Bride. A' my life I had been taught tae protect
women, and how could I let her go into a great battle like this would
be, kenning as I did that she was a lass? The skirmishes had been
dangerous enough, but this was many times worse. But I saw nae way tae
be keeping her frae it without the breaking of my oath. Somehow though I
would protect her, as I had tried tae do before. And I kenned she might
not welcome protection. And I wondered why it had tae be I wha
discovered the truth about her.
~ez_ldquo~Sir William Wallace was in front of
the center shiltron, talking quietly wi John Wallace and Sir John
Graham. I couldna hear what they said, but I saw them glance back as if
displeased tae where the cavalry were stationed behind us, under Buchan.
Dunbar and Angus should hae been there tae, but I feared they were not.
Sir William~ez_rsquo~s voice rose: ~ez_lsquo~~ez_hellip~Scotland~ez_rsquo~s nobles deserting, when the
kingdom~ez_rsquo~s needing them most~ez_hellip~~ez_rsquo~ So, I thought, they maun no hae come
back, and I was certain they had betrayed us by telling the Southrons
where we were. Until then I had clung tae the hope that their leaving
was innocent, but noo I was as sure as if I~ez_rsquo~d watched them that they had
gone tae Langshanks. Margaret, I'll wish for the rest of my life that I
had told someone of what I'd seen!~ez_rdquo~
Kenneth bowed his head. In a moment he
continued, ~ez_ldquo~But of course by this time 'twas tae late tae say aught
about it. I could only pray God that nae mair evil would follow. Though
an unplanned battle was harm enough! I mind that Sir William looked a
wee tired and strained. A nation is ower-heavy a burden for one man's
shoulders, and he was little mair than a lad, though in truth it was
easy tae forget that.
~ez_ldquo~We saw that the English were
advancing. I remember still what my general said. 'My lords and
brothers!  Remember that it is the freedom of Scotland for which we
fight, and stand fast!'
~ez_ldquo~Those great horses of the English
snapped oor rope and stake barrier like 'twas string and kindling wood.
I swallowed hard. But Sir William, smiling, shouted above the pounding
hoofbeats, 'I hae brought you tae the ring; dance if you can!' He was
trying tae keep oor hearts up, I ken. But mine had sunk into my stomach,
and the bird there was tearing at it. If only I had told! And then they
were only feet awa, galloping straight towards us. Time seemed tae slow.
Margaret, I think there can be few things on earth as hard as
standing~ez_mdash~or kneeling~ez_mdash~still while a horse gallops at you. There wasna one
of us but would hae rather ran at the enemy shouting, instead of this
waiting. But Sir William had said 'stand fast.'
~ez_ldquo~And then the Southrons crashed into
us. I held my spear firm. With all the noise the horses and men were
making, and oor attention fixed completely on the enemy, 'tis no strange
that none of us noticed hoof-beats going awa behind us. The Southrons
drew back, but only tae charge again~ez_mdash~and again~ez_mdash~like waves battering a
rock. My general seemed tae be everywhere, always on the spot when one
of the shiltrons wavered.
Wherever he came we took heart again and
[4. The Book of Pluscarden Vol. II [Edited
by Felix J. H. Skene; published 1880 William Paterson, Edinburgh]]
~ez_ldquo~But then the archery started. I had
tae keep moving backwards, tae close up the gaps that appeared in my
shiltron. The lad frae Dundee fell, and there was nothing I could do for
him. He needed nothing done. There was a strange, surprised little smile
on his face.
~ez_ldquo~An arrow went deep into my leg just
above the knee, but I hardly noticed it then. I was furious wi the lass
behind me for being sae daft as tae be in a battle like this. And then
it came tae me~ez_mdash~why were the horse no charging the archers? I looked at
Sir William. He was looking back at where the horse had been, and frae
the terrible white fury on his face I was seeing they were no there.* We
foot soldiers were practically unsupported, for oor archers had suffered
~ez_ldquo~We were still standing firm, though at
the rate we were falling I thought we could not much longer. I was
expecting the retreat tae be ordered any minute, when I heard the sound
of horns far behind, but rapidly coming nearer. For a moment I thought
that oor horsemen had come back. But it was not so. 'Twas enemy cavalry,
led by the Bishop of Durham and Robert Bruce, the Scottish Earl of
Carrick. At the time I only kenned they were mair Southrons. They
crashed into us at a great speed. We were ower-few tae stand firm any
longer. The shiltrons began tae collapse inward, and men began
panicking, scattering, being pounded under great hooves. I glanced
behind me for James and Donald and Bride, and only saw Bride. Sir
William ordered the retreat then. I believe if it hadna been for having
no horse tae stop the archers we would hae won. But we had lost.
~ez_ldquo~That retreat was mair like an evil
dream than anything else. Arrows were falling like a silver hail, and we
were falling under them like wheat. Then Bride stumbled beside me.
She had been hit. I caught her, and helped
her along as best I could, but we went slower
[*Buchan~ez_rsquo~s involvement is merely a
conjecture. There is no historical proof. Often the blame for this
treachery had been laid on the Red Comyn of Badenoch, but, as far as I
have found, there is no proof of this, nor do any of the oldest authors
and slower and kept getting farther back in
the line. You mind I had an arrow in my leg. I glanced back and saw
Southrons close behind us, and foremost a man wi the white and crimson
cloak of the Knights of the Temple billowing out behind him. Sir William
was at the verra end of the line, guarding oor retreat, and galloped
towards the Templar, wi sword upraised and shining silver. They met. In
a moment it was ower, and my general was riding on after us. And then
Bride gave a little cry and went limp like a plucked flower, and I was
still trying tae drag her along...I kenned we would baith be killed, but
I couldna be leaving a lass tae the mercy of the Southrons. A' the time
we were falling back in line. I was glad she was no awake; she wouldna
hae tae ken what would happen. But~ez_mdash~thank God and Saint Mary Magdalene,
wha's feast-day it was~ez_mdash~a dark giant of a Scot saw us, and lifted her as
if she weighed nothing, and we went on, though I was seeing strangely
dark, wi wee sparks around the edges. My leg was bleeding verra well,
and I noticed that I had an arrow in my shoulder, and didna ken when I
had gotten it.
~ez_ldquo~Little enough of the rest of that
retreat do I remember. What little I can remember is like I was
sleepwalking. I saw the wee red flames when we set fire tae Stirling
town tae keep it frae the English, and tae make sure the people left
before the English came...I remembered that only months ago we had won
at the Brig of Stirling. Someone laughed then, and it was I. And another
time my general was bending ower me, and there was something I had tae
tell him~ez_mdash~something about Angus and Dunbar and Buchan and a plot~ez_mdash~but my
mouth wouldna work. And some how it linked in my mind wi the time I had
fallen out of a tree when a lad, and opened my eyes tae see him looking
down at me just about the same way. But he was a lad then tae, and noo
he wasna. It was a~ez_rsquo~ verra confusing. After a while I heard myself
muttering, 'Tae late... if only I'd told... if only I'd told...' but I
wasna sure noo what I should hae told, though I tried tae remember. And
all through this time were sometimes voices, sometimes a moment when I
would see trees or sky or someone. Once I saw Bride, but surely she
couldna be up and about, so it didna make sense.
~ez_ldquo~The first thing I remember clearly is
waking up staring into a blue sky crossed wi green boughs. I smelled
faint wood smoke, and it seemed a guid thing tae smell. Then my leg
pained me, and I half sat up tae see why it was so. When I looked at it,
I saw that it was bandaged, and the flesh was angry around the bandage.
Then I remembered, and pushed my tunic back into place, sat all the way
up and looked around. First I noticed that there were other hurt men
around me, and we seemed tae be camping in woods. Then I saw Bride, up
and about, only a wee bit pale, and changing a bandage on the arm of a
man near me. I waited until she was done, and then I called, 'Duncan!'
And she came, and said, 'You're awake.' I said that I was, and asked her
tae tell me what had happened after the battle.
~ez_ldquo~She told me quickly and no in order of
happening about how I had bled sae much that I had been in a daze and
how my leg had become sick, sae I had been in a fever for some days;
about the burning of Stirling; about waking up tae find Malcolm Dubh
carrying her; about how the Earl of Carrick had pursued us, and Sir
William had had speech wi him, and won him ower tae oor side; how John
Wallace had been wounded badly, but was recovering well; and so on.
Then, quietly and no looking at me, she told me that Donald, the lad
frae Dundee, and James of Glasgow were dead, and that MacDuff, the
Steward's brother John, and Sir John Graham were dead also. 'Sir William
loved the Graham like a brother,' she said. 'I would that he had not; it
wouldna hurt him so much then.' Then she looked me in the face and said,
'But for you, I'd be wi them,' and for a moment she looked nothing like
a statue. She gave my hand a quick grip and was gone.
~ez_ldquo~I remained sitting up and tried tae
untangle a~ez_rsquo~ of this in my mind. It seemed strange that I didna remember
many of these things, that I had had tae be told of them. I thought of
Donald and my friend frae Dundee and James of Glasgow. They had been
alive and talking and laughing and fighting such a short time ago~ez_hellip~ it
seemed as if they couldna a~ez_rsquo~ be dead noo. I remembered how when we were
but bairns Donald had said that when he was a man he would fight a guid
fight for Scotland. Never would he be mair than a lad noo, but he had
fought his brave fight. I mind that the tears came, and like the lad
that I was I tried tae hide them. When I closed my eyes I kept seeing
the three of them, and on the face of the lad frae Dundee always that
still smile. I hoped that it meant ~ez_lsquo~twas well wi him.
~ez_ldquo~Sir John Graham was dead tae. He was
one we could ill be sparing~ez_hellip~he wha my general called his right hand.
Hadna Sir William lost enough already, without this? And then the black
thought came upon me that a~ez_rsquo~ this was my fault, because I hadna told
what I had seen. It was as much my fault as if I had conspired wi the
traitors. The bird in my stomach came back tae life and flapped and
clawed wildly. It was a~ez_rsquo~ my fault~ez_hellip~. The hours seemed like days, though I
had nae reason for wanting time tae pass on. I had nae hope of a time
ever coming when I would feel worthy tae live again.
~ez_ldquo~A few hours later my general came tae
see us, us wounded, I~ez_rsquo~m meaning. He always would do that, every day if
possible. And when he saw that I was sitting up, he smiled and said he
was glad. And somehow that made it worse. I kenned that I had tae be
telling him. He was quite a ways off when I finally got it out, in a
voice between a squeak and a gasp, that I was needing tae speak tae him.
While he was speaking tae the other men, I rose, and found that I could
walk, though my leg was strongly against it. He came back, and I said
that I maun speak tae him alone, sae he helped me walk a little ways off
into the woods, and then he asked me what I wanted tae tell him. Hae you
ever noticed how the ground looks in a forest? I felt my ears grow
verra hot. And then I told him. When I looked up, fearing tae see that
white anger, he was just looking at me. He did not seem angry, only a
little weary, as he had looked before. I thought again that a~ez_rsquo~ the
burdens of a country were mair than any man should hae tae carry. 'Can
you be forgiving me?' I said miserably.
~ez_ldquo~'Kenneth, you hae done nothing needing
forgiveness,' he said. His hand was on my shoulder, strong and blessedly
real. 'You couldna ken what they were about tae do; few would even hae
noticed that aught seemed strange. Dinna think that what you did or
didna do could change what happened. What happened was the will of God.'
He had the look noo I hae told you of, the seeing look, and for the
first time I thought it uncanny seeming. 'It is a~ez_rsquo~ planned already,' he
said softly, and at something quiet and sad and triumphant in his tone I
shivered. He smiled. 'I saw how you wouldna leave Duncan. You hae a
great heart, Kenneth, and a brave one.'
~ez_ldquo~Between gratitude, relief, and having
stood tae lang on my bad leg, I sat down, unexpectedly tae baith of us.
Sae he helped me back tae where I belonged.
~ez_ldquo~Somewhere in the Bible it says that he
wha is forgiven much loves much. After that day nothing could hae made
me leave my general as lang as he wanted me.
~ez_ldquo~I recovered well, and was able tae
help wi getting the Southrons back tae their ain place.
~ez_ldquo~How did you do that?~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~How? Weel, we followed them, attacking
any sma' stray groups just tae keep them in remembrance that the sooner
they were gone the better for a' concerned. Once they were back ower the
Border, Sir William gave a' of us a shock. He called us a' together, and
resigned the Guardianship. Not the fight, oh no. But he believed that
the only way tae win for guid was tae hae at least many nobles on oor
side, and he was sure that as lang as he was Guardian that wouldna
happen. Though he didna say so, I kenned that this was because verra
many of them were jealous of him, and angry at one of lower rank being
ower them. I think noo that 'twas also that they resented him defending
and leading Scotland, because they kenned that it was what they should
hae done. Sir William said that he was resigning because he didna want
tae be the cause of the ruin of the people of Scotland. As if 'twas his
fault we had a pack of traitors for oor nobility!
~ez_ldquo~We were a' the maist surprised people
you ever saw, but no that unhappy, for he was continuing the fight, and
of course we would be keeping him oor leader. The point that worried us
was wha we might get for guardian after him. As it turned out, we had
twa new Guardians: Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, and John Comyn, the
Red Comyn of Badenoch. This surprised us almost as much as Sir William's
resigning. Everyone was kenning them tae be opposing each other.
Carrick's grandfather had claimed the throne, back when there had been
the succession dispute. And Comyn was kin tae Balliol, the successful
claimant. Besides that, his ain father had made a claim...'Twas like
putting a torch by oil and expecting nothing tae happen tae pick those
~ez_ldquo~As for us, the most part stayed wi
Wallace and did against the Southrons whatever came tae hand. It was
much like the old days before the battle at the Brig of Stirling had
been fought. But then everything had been beginning. Now we had won, and
we had lost, and we had settled down tae fight or die for however lang
it might be necessary. And there was no a day I wasna missing my
friends, especially Donald. As you ken, we had grown up together. Also I
noo had Bride tae look after. This was no easy. I tried tae be friends
wi her, but she was locked up inside herself, hidden beneath the hood
she always wore. I had hoped it would not be so after that day when I
had woken up. But I understood well enough. She was afraid tae care in
any way for anyone, lest she lose that one as she had lost her family.
But I kenned that she still could and did care. She had been sorry for
that Sir William was grieving the Graham.
~ez_ldquo~My other difficulty wi Bride was that
I was determined tae protect her in fighting in as far as it was
possible, and as I had begun tae notice during the skirmishing before
Falkirk, she was for being in the thick of it. Before I kenned she was a
girl, I had payed little enough mind, but after that I was realizing
that I had a problem on my hands. She usually was right behind or beside
Sir William, which of course was the most dangerous place she could hae
been. And as if that wasna worrisome enough, after Falkirk she would
appear frae nowhere when I was fighting twa or three Englishmen at the
same time, and then I had tae try tae protect her as well as fight them.
Not but that she was a guid fighter~ez_mdash~if she had been her brother Duncan
she could hardly hae been a better! Had she been a lad I would hae
worried little about her, but lasses are no meant tae be in battles. So
I would follow her in the fighting. Sir William maun hae thought we had
appointed ourselves his bodyguard.
~ez_ldquo~I was glad for my new friend Malcolm
Dubh. He treated me like a grown man, but like a grown man wha was his
son, and I had a feeling for him that I had never been able tae hae for
my guid uncle. My Uncle Adam believed that it was greatly virtuous of
him tae raise me; which it was, but somehow we had never been anything
like father and son. Malcolm Dubh and I had become friends quickly, it
beginning during the retreat frae Falkirk.
~ez_ldquo~He had been one of Moray's men, and I
kenned that his loyalty was tae him still, though he was dead. His
loyalty tae oor general was of one piece wi his tae Moray, for Sir
William's cause was the same as Moray had fought and died for.
~ez_ldquo~He was frae a glen in the north of
the kingdom wi a name as lang as he was tall, and he was a guid bit
taller than I was. His dark hair hung shaggy tae below his wide
shoulders; his face was also dark, and scarred; his eyes were wide and
gray. He had a broken nose (from a fistfight) and a winning smile. He
was a hard worker, a hard fighter, and he whistled.
~ez_ldquo~One of the army jests was how like and
unlike he was tae another Malcolm Dubh, also one of us. The other Dark
Malcolm was also tall, dark and scarred; also about forty-five; also a
hard worker and fighter. But he lacked the smile, and as for whistling,
he seldom even spoke, except for tae give his opinion of the Southrons.
He was leal, and for oor general would hae done anything, but he wasna
exactly pleasant company. But there! If I hae no gone off my story!
~ez_ldquo~So we went along, until Bishop William
Lamberton of St. Andrews (wha owed his position, 'twas said, tae Sir
William) came back frae France. He had been trying tae get oor French
allies tae be helpful, but hadna had owermuch success, though King
Philip had been friendly. He thought that Sir William ought tae go
himself. Perhaps his reputation would impress Philip. Sir William looked
as if he could hae laughed at this last (were it no for the respect due
tae a bishop), but in the end he was for going. Bishop Lamberton had
convinced him ~ez_lsquo~twas the best he could do for Scotland at the moment.
~ez_ldquo~I thought that it would be a fine
thing if Bride could go also, as it would keep her safe for a while. But
I wasna sure how it could be managed. Then Malcolm Dubh said that he was
among those chosen tae go and was tae bring twa others. He asked if I
wished tae come. I said I did, verra much, but could he take Duncan
instead? He looked at me a bit strange, but he was never one tae pry.
~ez_ldquo~Why no the twa of you?~ez_rdquo~ he said. So it was settled, once I had made
sure that Bride was willing, settled so easily and tidily that I could
hardly be believing it.
~ez_ldquo~We sailed in late summer of 1299, soon
after Bishop Lamberton was added tae the Guardians. Bruce and Comyn were
getting along about as badly as was tae be expected. I would hae thought
that Sir William's resigning the Guardianship was a great mistake, had
it not been for noticing that there were by this time many nobles out
for Scotland, wha had not been while he was Guardian, or had been only
because of fear of Sir William, or tae carry out treachery. Even
~ez_ldquo~You canna picture what 'twas like when
we sailed; you would hae had tae hae been there. Such a crowd as there
was tae see us off! Sir William's soldiers, no happier about his going
than he was~ez_mdash~if he had not been convinced that he would do Scotland mair
guid at the moment owerseas, he would never hae left; some local people;
and judging frae some of what I saw and a little of what I heard as we
tried tae get through the crowd tae the ship, not a few unfriendly
Scots, come tae make sure Sir William was really leaving. There was a
fistfight in the crowd by the time we got on board. A great noise a'
those people made together, a sort of roar that died awa as the water
between us and Scotland grew wider and wider.
~ez_ldquo~Before we were out of sight of
Scotland I made a discovery. My discovery was that my stomach had
declared war on me tae revenge the taking of it on a sea-voyage. Can you
remember what else happened on this sailing?~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~A pirate!~ez_rdquo~ squealed Margaret.
~ez_ldquo~Aye. And I had hoped this voyage would
keep Bride safe! Sixteen ships tae oor one he had, wi sails red as
blood. ~ez_lsquo~Twas no a guid sight. The poor man wha was ship's master was as
fearful as a wee rabbit that sees the hunter, and lamenting that he ever
was born. He said that ~ez_lsquo~twas the Red Reaver, and he was merciless and
invincible and much mair in the same line. Sir William sent him and his
steer-man below deck, seeing that they would be of but little help, and
we soldiers made ready for the fight. Not a few of us had the
sea-sickness, tae make it worse.
~ez_ldquo~'Twas a verra short fight. The pirate
leader leaped on board oor ship, met wi my general, and the next we
kenned, he was on his back, begging for mercy. Sir William granted it,
and the pirate ordered his men tae stop shooting. After that we sailed
on, wi oor ain red-sailed fleet of reformed pirates. Though I had a
feeling that if near them, 'twould be necessary tae keep an eye tae your
purse and perhaps your throat as well.
~ez_ldquo~It was different wi their leader. He
truly seemed delighted tae be done wi his dishonorable occupation. As we
soon found out, he was Thomas de Longueville, a Frenchman of guid family
and education, wha had slain a man (I never kenned why, for he never
said) in the very place where King Philip was, and therefore found it
guid tae leave France and take up piracy. He was a tall fellow, of guid
looks, wi manners as fine as his face. He could even make passing food
elaborately courteous, and much I wondered how he had ever put up wi his
crew, wha seemed somewhat rough tae me. He was unendingly grateful tae
my general for ending his career of crime, and insisted that he would
come back tae Scotland wi us, and perform deeds of valor for Sir
William. He was nothing like how I had imagined pirates; had I been
about half my age, I should hae been disappointed bitterly. As it was, I
was well pleased.
~ez_ldquo~When we came nigh tae France, the
people prepared tae give us a warm welcome, for they thought 'twas the
Red Reaver coming tae plunder them. When they found out their mistake,
they gave us a warm welcome of another sort. Sir William became their
hero upon the spot.
~ez_ldquo~Soon Sir William obtained a meeting wi
the King of France, Philip le Bel. He brought a' of us, and de
Longueville, and there we stood, feeling as out of place as a fish in a
bird's nest. Everything was sae verra fine at the French court, I
wondered how they could ever sit on the furniture, or do anything but
pose bonnily in the clothes. Sir William looked just as out of place as
we did, but unlike us he didna look as if he kenned it, though I doubt
he could hae not noticed. King Philip, a fair-haired, handsome man, wi
an air of loftiness, treated ted him with courtesy, but was giving him
at the start such a penetrating stare as would hae disconcerted a timid
man. I am no timid, but I thought that ~ez_rsquo~twould be no comfortable tae be
stared at like that. Somehow he made me think that when he looked at
someone he saw a~ez_rsquo~ the way through, tae whatever was behind them. Sir
William looked back steadily into the king~ez_rsquo~s face. I thought ~ez_lsquo~twas as if
the twa were testing each other.
~ez_ldquo~It was Philip wha after a few minutes
first relaxed his gaze, and said smiling, 'We are greatly pleased, Sir
William Wallace, wi your capture of the pirate de Longueville. He has
lang troubled oor shipping.~ez_rdquo~ Sir William took the opportunity tae ask
that de Longueville be pardoned. King Philip looked unsure. Sir William
added that de Longueville was going tae Scotland wi us. Philip became
varra agreeable, promised tae pardon him, and even tae knight him. Even
he pardoned a~ez_rsquo~ the other pirates.
~ez_ldquo~The rest of the talk didna go sae
well. Sir William kept trying tae convince Philip tae promise aid tae
Scotland, or tae try tae influence Edward of England (wha he had been
making treaties with and had sent his sister tae marry), but it was like
pouring water on a duck. At last King Philip brought the subject back
tae de Longueville.
~ez_ldquo~'Aye, we are extremely pleased.
Unfortunately, there are yet many pirates troubling oor waters. The man
wha captured them would be greatly favored by us, he and his
~ez_ldquo~ 'You wish me tae fight the pirates,
Your Majesty?' said Sir William.
~ez_ldquo~'Ah!' said King Philip, arching his
pale brows, ~ez_lsquo~you are one of those rare ones wha prefer plain speech?
Aye, 'twould win you oor even greater gratitude and favor, were you tae
make an end of these pirates.'
~ez_ldquo~So that was how it came about that
during oor time in France (ower three years, and it seemed longer) we
captured or slew eight pirates. I learned tae fight on board ship, and
tae keep my dinner down while I did it. I managed tae keep Bride, though
she was still one for the most dangerous places, frae getting hurt
seriously. And the people and sailors were grateful for oor work. They
had been prey for these pirates for years. Sir William became varra
famous, and songs were made.
~ez_ldquo~In 1301, Sir William went tae see John
Balliol, wha was noo living on his inherited French land. I was curious
tae see him, but though we a~ez_rsquo~ came, Sir William didna think there was
any need tae bring that many of us in wi him, and I was not one of those
wha were chosen tae accompany him. So we waited outside, and I wondered
if Balliol missed Scotland as much as I was missing it. The sun was
pleasant, and I wondered if 'twas sunny in Scotland, and how it went wi
my uncle. I had seen him only once since joining Sir William. 'Weel, you
arena hanged yet,' was the friendliest thing he had said.
~ez_ldquo~That wasna kindly, tae greet you nae
better than that!~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~Och, I was deserving it, young rascal
that I was, slipping out of the window!
~ez_ldquo~Sir William came out again, looking
grave. We did not ask questions, though I was greatly wanting tae ken
what had passed. And soon enough he told us that Balliol didna wish tae
be King of Scots again, sae 'twas nae use trying tae restore him tae the
~ez_ldquo~'Then your fight is ower?' exclaimed
Sir Thomas de Longueville in dismay.
~ez_ldquo~'Nae, merely begun. The heart of my
fighting is tae win Scotland its freedom, no tae do aught wi kings.
Dinna fear, Sir Thomas. You shall hae mair than enough chances for deeds
of valor.' Sir Thomas looked relieved. I think perhaps, thinking rightly
that his honor had suffered frae being a pirate, he was hoping he could
win honor by valiant feats of arms. But ~ez_lsquo~twas mair than that; he simply
was loving the whole of chivalry~ez_mdash~spurs, bright swords, the Song of
Roland, and a' that.
~ez_ldquo~I was still curious about Balliol, so
I was pleased when ane of the men wha had gone in and seen him told
another about it, sae close tae me I couldna help hearing. He said that
Balliol was a grave, courteous man. He had received Sir William wi
courtesy, and thanked him for his loyal service in Scotland, but made it
plain that he had no wish tae be restored tae the throne. Nor could he
be shaken frae this. Indeed he grew exasperated when Sir William urged
that Scotland needed a rightful ruler. He said that Bruce could hae the
crown and may he hae joy of it! and explained that he believed certain
Scots had tried tae poison him.
~ez_ldquo~Sir William had several meetings wi
King Philip after that first one, but nothing much came of it in the
end. Philip was always delighted wi the work against the pirates, and
about tae do something for Scotland. But he did nothing, as far as I
could tell, save for influence Edward tae make twa truces. He gave Sir
William Wallace a recommendation tae the French agents at the court of
Rome, and tried tae give him many valuable gifts. He presented us a' wi
fine swords. And always he gave the impression that he was just about
tae help Scotland, so much so that it seemed as of it would be
worthwhile tae continue in France.
~ez_ldquo~Except for that the main point of
being in France was tae get Philip's help, and we were no getting him
tae give much of it, life was pleasant enough, though if we had tae
fight pirates I would rather hae been doing it on land. For fighting the
pirates we were looked upon as heroes, and the people were friendly. I
learned tae speak French as well as a nobleman. Some of the people were
tae friendly. There were some lassies wha seemed just fascinated wi us
Scots and hung about in a manner most annoying. That is, I thought it
annoying. About a year after we came, one of us, a youngish man, wed one
of those lassies; Clotilde her name was. After about another year, they
had a black-haired bairn, and named it Achaius, which seemed ower-great
a name for such a wee thing.
~ez_ldquo~But there was a varra big thing wrong
wi France, something that in time made everything there wrong. And that
thing was that it wasna Scotland. It wasna hame. You canna ken what
~ez_lsquo~twas like~ez_mdash~I~ez_rsquo~m hoping you never can~ez_mdash~but I tell you there were times when
I would wake in the night, thinking I was hame again. But then I would
find that I had but dreamed of Scotland, and would half break my heart
~ez_ldquo~In 1302, it seemed as if half the
magnates of Scotland came tae France, hoping tae keep Philip frae
leaving Scotland out of his peace arrangements wi Edward. The French
were oor allies, and should hae stipulated for Edward leaving us alone.
One of the Scots wha came was guid Bishop Lamberton. (He had come the
year before also.) He urged Sir William tae return tae Scotland. But Sir
William, seeing that there were noo plenty of other people tae attempt
tae influence Philip, was thinking of going tae Rome and trying tae
influence his Holiness Pope Boniface. And this was despite his wanting
tae be in Scotland again as much or mair than I was! He never spoke much
of this, but I ken.
~ez_ldquo~But the Bishop said that there was
nothing tae say tae Boniface that hadna already been said by the Scots
wha had gone tae Rome already. Nor did he think 'twould be any use going
tae Norway. Sir William still thought he should try.
~ez_ldquo~'Nae, there is nothing mair for you
tae do out of Scotland. You can be returning noo wi a clear conscience,
my son,' the Bishop said. And finally~ez_mdash~it took him nae short time tae
decide~ez_mdash~Sir William decided that it was indeed the time tae return hame.
We Scots hadna heard such guid tidings for a lang time, even though it
meant we would be fighting the English again. But Philip was no sae
happy about it as we were. He was grown that fond of us, he did
everything short of arresting us tae keep us frae going awa. Or perhaps
it was that he was that fond of Langshanks; after a' he let him marry
~ez_ldquo~But in the end we sailed for Scotland,
early in 1303, and met nae pirates on the way. Setting out we had fine,
sunny weather, though cold, and were a' on deck. I remember Malcolm
Dubh sitting on a coil of rope, whittling a toy for wee Achaius, wha was
old enough tae be verra winsome and getting underfoot. He ate one of the
shavings, I remember, and was much less disturbed by it than his poor
~ez_ldquo~I would hae liked tae play wi Achaius.
I am liking wee bairns greatly!~ez_rdquo~ interjected Margaret.
~ez_ldquo~Aye, that you do. And I remember Sir
Thomas de Longueville pacing up and down the deck, sword in hand,
enthusiastically telling anyone wha spoke French and would listen about
what great and honorable feats of arms he hoped tae do. I whispered tae
Bride that never had I thought we would be coming back wi a bairn and a
pirate, and she laughed a little.
~ez_ldquo~'I am glad tae be coming back any
way,' she said. I hoped she would say mair, but she did not. Instead she
soon walked awa frae me, and sat alone, staring at the sea. I mind how
the light shone off the water, till it could hae blinded one wha looked
tae lang at it.
~ez_ldquo~The guid weather didna hold. It became
colder, and at last, no far frae being in sight of Scotland, an icy rain
~ez_ldquo~Is your weather commonly like this?~ez_rdquo~
asked Sir Thomas, laughing and pulling his cloak up around his face.
~ez_ldquo~'Nae, mair often the rain isna
freezing,' returned one of us.
~ez_ldquo~Save Clotilde and the bairn, we had
were a' on deck, despite the rain, a~ez_rsquo~ cloaked and icily wet. We made
sure oor weapons were beneath oor cloaks, for it wouldna do for them tae
rust. Langshanks' most recent truce wi Scotland had no lang ago ended.
~ez_ldquo~'Twas my general wha saw the shore
first, frae where he was standing at the prow. And in a moment we a' saw
it tae, and raised a great shout. Then we exchanged guilty glances, for
below us we heard a frightened bairn raise a great shout of his ain. The
captain made for the shore, which grew closer and clearer by the moment.
And we a~ez_rsquo~ smiled at the others, through the rain that beaded oor cloaks
and froze, or ran down them in wee streams. No one said much. There was
little need tae be speaking.
~ez_ldquo~When at last we were standing on land,
I felt a~ez_rsquo~ at once that I had dreamed the trip tae France, and had never
been awa frae Scotland at a'. But I kenned this wasna true. Perhaps the
others were feeling the same, for we were verra quiet for what seemed
like baith a short time and a lang one. And the bairn made wee soft
noises tae itself. Sir William's lips moved, almost silently, but I
caught, 'Laudo te, Domine Deus,' and kenned that he prayed. Then Sir
Thomas, wha had been looking about him wi a sort of bright, enthusiastic
grimness, drew himself yet mair erect, and seizing Sir William's hand
exclaimed in French, 'Soon noo shall I prove my worth, and make my name
great indeed!' Somehow it didna seem tae quite be fitting...
~ez_ldquo~We walked a little ways, and saw no
one. So my general pulled out his horn and sounded it. At the sound my
heart leaped up and began a mad wee dance. I was in Scotland, and my
leader had sounded the horn that has blown at the Brig of Stirling ~ez_mdash~I
canna explain it better than that, Margaret. And almost on the instant a
wet young man appeared frae among some bushes and ran straight towards
us. I didna recognize him, and made sure of my weapons.
~ez_ldquo~'Oh, General, the Southrons--' he
gasped, and then said much mair, which he ran into one word as Donald
would hae done. Frae him we learned, wi some difficulty due tae this
habit, that there was an English invasion led by Sir John Segrave
(Edward was no wi it), and the Red Comyn of Badenoch (wha apparently was
guardian) and Sir Simon Fraser were preparing tae meet it.
~ez_ldquo~Sir William decided tae march as
quickly as practical tae join wi them, gathering mair men along the way
if possible. 'I canna understand why you're wanting tae help a Comyn,'
growled one of the older men, boldly. We didna usually question oor
~ez_ldquo~'I'm not,' Sir William said. 'It's
Scotland I'm wanting tae help.'
~ez_ldquo~About twice as many as when we had
started, and wi Clotilde and the bairn safe for the moment in a convent,
we arrived at Roslin. But we were tae late tae help wi that battle, for
the Scots had won it the day before. Sir William presented himself and
us tae Comyn and Fraser. Comyn appeared no delighted, and in the talk
kept making wee remarks about arriving after the danger was over. Sir
William pretended he didna notice, and we followed his example and didna
knock the Red Comyn ower or anything of that sort, though I for one
wouldna hae minded doing it. After a particularly pointed insult, I saw
Sir Simon Fraser give Comyn a sharp look frae under frowning, faintly
gray-tinged brows. And that was the last remark that day about being
late. I had never seen Sir Simon, though I had heard of him as a valiant
knight. He wasna tall, but he looked as if he could hae picked up a
cattle and walked awa wi it. His face was rugged, and verra comely after
its fashion, though by nae means young (he maun hae been about forty);
thoughtful, and I thought he seemed kindly and practical. Altogether I
was thinking that if he and Comyn were tae switch places we might do
~ez_ldquo~Of course a crowd of the fighters had
gathered when we arrived, and kept growing. We met many an old friend
that day. John Wallace (wha had chosen no tae go tae France) had been
knighted: Sir John Wallace. I mind when we were bairns we had played
that he was a knight and I his squire. The other Malcolm Dubh had lost
his shield arm, but said that at least 'twasna his sword arm, and he
could still fight the Southrons this way. And John of Clydesdale was
married. There was much news, and mair people tae tell it. Sir Alan
Wallace, may God rest his soul, had died in peace of auld age; Scots had
taken Stirling Castle, and Edward had taken Caerlaverock Castle; Bruce
of Carrick had resigned the Guardianship, and a considerable time later
(1302) had joined the English and married Langshanks' goddaughter, and
Sir Simon Fraser had joined oor side. Edward had invaded twice, and was
expected tae invade again before lang. Prince Edward had raided Bruce's
earldom in 1301. Sir Ingram de Umfraville had replaced Bruce as a
Guardian; then in time Umfraville, Comyn and Lamberton had a~ez_rsquo~ resigned,
and Sir John de Soules was made Guardian. But he was one of those wha
had gone tae France in 1302, so noo it seemed John Comyn of Badenoch was
~ez_ldquo~Some of this I had heard Bishop
Lamberton speak of, but not a'. And he had not included details such as
that Bruce's wife was beautiful; that neither he (Lamberton) nor most
other people could get along wi the Red Comyn; and that Sir Simon Fraser
had joined us riding an English leader's horse and wearing his armor,
and they were no gifts. And of course we heard a' about the battle of
Roslin, many times. The English army had been in three divisions, which
came up separately, sae 'twas almost like three battles in one day,
after the Scots had marched through the night.
~ez_ldquo~Of course Edward did invade, in the
spring. We kenned he would. What we were no expecting was the size of
his army. But first there was a wee time of quiet. Sir William came here
tae visit his brother, Sir Andrew, wha was laird noo, and I came also.
My uncle was in guid health, and almost admitted he was pleased tae see
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~Twas the late afternoon of a gray
day, after we had rejoined the others, when we heard that Edward was in
Scotland again. The sky was heavy and lead-colored, and wee gusts of
wind suddenly rose and fell, whipping my hair across my eyes. 'The
Guardian is wanting tae speak wi you, Sir,' a lad of about sixteen told
my general. 'I'm thinking 'tis bad news, frae the look of him.'
~ez_ldquo~Sir William rose, giving a pat tae
Wulf, the great ugly hound. Where Wulf came frae I canna tell you. A' I
ken is that in spring of 1303, he walked intae oor camp (we had heard
that Edward was on his way up through England, and so the whole army was
at the ready) wi a hurt leg, and attached himself immediately and
irreversibly tae my general.
~ez_ldquo~I set down the knife I was sharpening,
and, like Wulf, followed Sir William tae Comyn's tent. Perhaps I
shouldna hae, as I was no invited, but none objected. Comyn was pacing
before his tent. As he turned tae Sir William I saw that his face was
pale and tense below his fire-colored hair.
~ez_ldquo~'Edward has invaded. My scouts say
that he has twa great forces marching separately, led by him and his
son.' Sir William seemed tae be waiting for Comyn tae say mair. 'I canna
see how we can stop them, with the numbers that we hae.' Comyn said. He
bit at his lip.
~ez_ldquo~'We canna offer plain battle, that is
sure,' said Sir Simon Fraser, wha was standing near. 'But that isna the
only way tae fight~ez_rsquo~~ez_mdash~ he turned tae Sir William~ez_mdash~'as you showed before and
after Falkirk. That other way of fighting served us well in Edward's
~ez_ldquo~After a little mair talk, Comyn
somewhat grudgingly permitted Sir William tae resume command~ez_mdash~under
Comyn's orders, of course~ez_mdash~of a sma' portion (in addition tae we wha had
gone tae France, and those wha had joined on the way tae Roslin) of the
army he had previously commanded. My general was tae harass Prince
Edward's march. 'And dinna be surprised by the English as you were in
1298,' added Comyn by way of farewell.
~ez_ldquo~As I hae none of your kinsmen wi me,
it is unlike tae happen,~ez_rdquo~ returned Sir William sharply. Comyn flushed
red and glared at Sir William. His hand moved tae rest lightly on his
sword-hilt. But his eyes were afraid. Then Sir Simon Fraser, as calmly
as if we were not on the verge of a fight, stepped between them, and
asked Sir William when he would be setting out.
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~As soon as is practical. The
Southrons are no going tae wait for us.~ez_rsquo~
~ez_ldquo~I found, once back at oor part of the
camp, that Sir William considered it practical tae start verra soon
indeed. Somehow before the day was out he had gathered everyone together
that was coming (including Sir John Wallace and the Kirkpatrick), gotten
us provisioned, given us a well-worked out plan of action, left Wulf for
the time wi an old man wha was wanting a hound, and started off wi us.
Bride walked beside me, her eyes bright. I was in for a time. Why she
always would be throwing herself intae extra danger I hadna figured out
yet, but I kenned she would be.
~ez_ldquo~I forget precisely how lang it took
before we met up wi the English. It took quite a bit of marching, and no
straggling permitted. But I do remember, a few miles in the rear of
them, for though we came frae north of them oor line of march brought us
tae their south, entering land where they had been. Every house in sight
was burnt. And then we began tae see that they had had nae mercy, no
even for the women. The killing was tae universal tae be the work of a
few men against orders. This black work had been commanded. Hundreds of
~ez_ldquo~My general said nothing, but on his
face was the white wrath that struck fear intae the heart, though I was
innocent of that which caused it. Thomas de Longueville appeared tae be
in shock. He had been fancying that he was tae be part of something like
one of those lovely romances of chivalry he had read. As we went on
'twas the same. ~ez_lsquo~Langshanks is meaning tae make an end of a' Scotland
this time,' Bride said through tight lips. ~ez_lsquo~He has realized he canna
conquer us living.' I thought she was right, as much as I could think
through how sick I was feeling.
~ez_ldquo~About three miles behind the main body
of the English, we came upon a plundering party, returning tae the main
force it looked like. There was cover there, so we spread out sae as tae
surround them. Then we closed in at a run, shouting oor war cry,
~ez_lsquo~Freedom! Saorsa na h-Alba!' They were trapped, but I couldna pity them,
after what I had been seeing. Wha pities the murderer wha is executed?
They fought bravely, as men always will wha hae nae other choice. I was
fighting one of them when another lunged at me unexpectedly, stabbing
his sword-point intae my left shoulder. I wasna expecting it, sae I lost
my balance and fell. He struck at me again, and I rolled aside just in
time. As I tried tae rise he threw himself towards me, and I think 'twould
hae been my last fight if Bride hadna somehow got between us and taken
his blow slantwise on her raised sword arm. I leaped up and struck well.
Then I turned tae Bride, and saw that she wasna bleeding dangerously.
'Can you manage?' I shouted tae her above the roar of the
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~Aye.' There was nae time for mair. We
fought steadily on. I saw tae my relief that Bride was managing finely,
and no tae my surprise that she was noo right behind Sir William. The
English had given up any attempt at order, and fought each man for
himself. 'Twas no lang until the fight was ower.
~ez_ldquo~Afterwards of course we had tae stop
until oor wounds could be bound up. What tae do wi the badly hurt was a
problem, but someone found a hacked but useable wagon near the ownerless
ruins of a house, and we had a few horses wi us, and so that problem was
solved. As soon as a monastery could be found, we would leave them in
the care of the monks, but until then, they had tae travel on wi us. For
them tae head back wouldna hae been safe wi a~ez_rsquo~ these English about.
~ez_ldquo~My friend Malcolm Dubh bound up my
shoulder for me, and said 'twould do well enough, and I bound up Bride's
arm. Then the question came out. 'Duncan, why did you do that?' I wished
as soon as I'd said it that I hadna, or had said it better.
~ez_ldquo~She laughed shortly. 'Because I didna
wish you killed~ez_mdash~why else?'
~ez_ldquo~I thought I might as well keep on,
since I had begun. 'Is that why you are usually there when I am having
~ez_ldquo~'Twas a' clear tae me noo, and I
thought I maun be an idiot no tae hae realized that was what she was
trying tae do~ez_mdash~protect me.
~ez_ldquo~'Ye'll be getting yourself killed,
Bride!' I had forgotten and used her real name. But none appeared tae
~ez_ldquo~'I hae told you, I dinna fear that. Do
you think I havena noticed how you watch ower me? I'm fearing ~ez_lsquo~tis you
will be killed, and I dinna want that tae happen.'
~ez_ldquo~I hae never been guid at thinking what
tae say. Fortunately I didna hae tae say anything. She went on, low and
serious. 'Since my family died, I havena wanted tae care for anyone. But
you saved me at the risk of your life after Falkirk, Kenneth, and you
hae been guid tae me. You are the only person living I call a friend,
and I couldna bear tae lose you tae. Now can you see why I try tae
protect you?' I nodded, dumbly. Then I said something completely
~ez_ldquo~'You dinna act friendly. When I try
tae talk wi you, you usually leave or dinna talk back.' I could hae
bitten my tongue for saying it.
~ez_ldquo~'I am sorry for that,' she said,
quietly. ' I hae tried no tae be friendly because I feared I would lose
you. I dinna ken if that makes any reason tae you... ' I could see that
wi saying a' this she was in a state where, had she been an ordinary
lass, she'd hae been in tears. But she had learned control, and
continued in a low, calm voice. 'Sir William kens what it is like tae
lose those you are loving best. But he is braver than me. He hasna tried
tae stop caring.'
~ez_ldquo~'You try tae protect Sir William
~ez_ldquo~'Aye. You also would be willing give
your life for him, I'm thinking.
~ez_ldquo~'Aye.' I said truthfully. ~ez_ldquo~I think we
~ez_ldquo~'Then dinna find fault wi me!' She
flung up her head in a small defiant gesture. In a moment her expression
changed tae a sort of wonder. 'I had not thought tae ever talk like this
tae anybody again...'
~ez_ldquo~'Canna we be better of friends noo
that you've told me a' this, Bride?' Tae my surprise she flushed
slightly as she replied.
~ez_ldquo~'Aye. It is strange~ez_mdash~how the telling
has helped.' Then she said almost shyly, 'I havena told anyone, but I
want tae tell you this. Before a' this I would make songs. Nae, I
wouldna make songs; they would come tae me. Like wee birds flying into
their nest. But it never is so noo.'
~ez_ldquo~We followed the English, and went
beside the English, and even in front of the English. A small group can
travel faster than a great army, and perhaps the English prince was no
in favor of traveling ower fast. When we could we warned the people tae
make for the hills until the Southrons had passed by. But some people
wouldna leave their hames. When a small group of Southrons went tae
plunder, or dragged behind, or forged ahead, we were there. We spared
the people much plundering and killing that way. And when a large group
came after us, we simply werena there.
~ez_ldquo~The poor people where the Southrons
passed! Those that escaped wi their lives had lost a' else, and they
would come tae us for help. Sir William never refused them. If there was
nae extra food he would give them his own ration. And then of course
several of us would follow his example.
~ez_ldquo~I remember tae well the evening when
we came tae my village~ez_mdash~this one~ez_mdash~practically on the heels of a raiding
party. We saw a great smoke rising, and John Wallace gave a cry of
dismay, for we kenned they had stolen a march on us this time while we
had been dealing wi another group a few miles behind. We went forwards
as quickly as might be, through deserted fields. I hoped this meant the
people had left in time.
~ez_ldquo~The flames were roaring in the thatch,
and the Southrons shouting and laughing in the streets. Some of them
were drunk, I thought. But I saw nae Scots. Then the next moment the
horn sounded, and there was no time for thinking, only fighting.
Fighting a' through the burning village, the air full of sparks and
burning bits of thatch, half blinded by the smoke and coughing frae it.
~ez_ldquo~Then we reached the center of the
village and saw that there were mair Southrons than had been apparent,
and they had been attacking the kirk. Upon its roof they had cast
blazing straw, and sparks were leaping and bits of charred straw
floating a~ez_rsquo~ about the place.
~ez_ldquo~The people maun hae taken refuge in
the kirk when they kenned of the Southrons' coming. They should hae gone
tae the laird's house, which was somewhat fortified. The Southrons hae
nae respect for kirks. But noo the ruffians were forming up in some
order tae receive us. We rushed, shouting, and crashed into them. Then
there was hand tae hand fighting for a few minutes, the crashing,
clashing, sweating fighting where you maun guard a~ez_rsquo~ sides and canna let
your guard down for a moment. Then the door of the blazing kirk swung
open wi a crash, and the men came out shouting, waving swords, scythes,
axes, blazing torches...Sir Andrew Wallace was leading them, and right
behind him was the priest. This I saw in the moment before they attacked
the rear of the English. Soon the Southrons were fleeing, casting down
their weapons as we pursued them. But 'twas a short pursuit, for we had
another battle tae fight, against the fire.
~ez_ldquo~A' the people were saved out of the
kirk, and most of the animals in the village were saved also, but for
many of the buildings on fire there wasna much we could do tae save
them. Thatch burns quickly. When it was a' ower, 'twas in the gloaming,
and burnt timbers stood black against the sky. I found Uncle Adam
sitting on the scorched grass beside what had been oor house. He looked
lonely, and pity for him was in my heart. I sat down beside him. 'I
hadna fought since Largs,' he said at last, as if continuing a
conversation. 'For a man of little less than seventy, I did none sae
badly in this fighting.'
~ez_ldquo~'I would that I could help you wi the
rebuilding,' I said awkwardly.
~ez_ldquo~I ken you maun go on wi Sir William
Wallace. 'Tis guid work he's doing.' My uncle paused, and coughed. 'I
was wrong tae try tae keep you, Kenneth,~ez_rdquo~ he said 'back at the beginning
of a' this. I hae heard what was done in other villages, where the
people were no warned in time, and noo I'm seeing for myself what it is
the English are wanting tae do tae oor Scotland. They canna take oor
freedom frae us living, sae they want tae make oor land a desert, kill
us a'. But they canna take it that way either!~ez_rdquo~ He had risen and was
looking defiantly towards the south. I stood also. 'I'm coming wi you,'
~ez_ldquo~I protested that he was tae auld, in
mair courteous terms than that, but I might as well hae argued wi a
boulder. He was coming, and he went tae tell Sir William so.
~ez_ldquo~So he was wi us when we marched on. We
went on, fighting as I hae told you, but a worry began tae rise in me.
A' this was doing nothing tae stop the English. I couldna see that there
was much else we could do, for we were a verra small force, but the fact
remained that the Southrons were steadily marching on north. Perhaps at
the river Forth...but we were on the wrong side of it tae repeat
Stirling Bridge~ez_mdash~the same side as the English. And Sir William hadna
enough men, though some did join along the way. But those wha joined
were fewer than those wha were killed.
~ez_ldquo~And in time Prince Edward's army
reached the Forth, and joined wi Langshanks~ez_rsquo~ force, which had gone up
the other side of Scotland. Together they made a great army. And we were
joined by Comyn and his force. They had followed Langshanks north. Then
I found that we were marching south a' together, and were tae go on a
foray through part of the south of Scotland and into northern England.
~ez_ldquo~Why?~ez_rdquo~ asked Margaret.
~ez_ldquo~I canna tell you precisely, for oddly
enough they didna include me in their councils. I think 'twas Comyn's
idea, but I am no sure. Sae we set off south, on a fine damp day where
the fog seemed tae even get inside us. I was walking along when I felt a
sharp prick in my foot. When I looked, I found I had stepped on a rusty
nail~ez_mdash~frae a horseshoe, I supposed. I bound it up wi a rag, and thought
nae mair of it, until the next day but one. I found that my foot was
swelling. And the next day I was fevered. Of a' the ridiculous things
tae happen! Of course it only got worse as I went along. At last Malcolm
Dubh looked at me sharply and said, 'Lad, you're sick.' And I couldna
deny it. Then I had him and my uncle and Bride a' concerned about me,
and a' because of a wee nail. When the next day we reached a monastery
that apparently the English hadna reached, I had tae be left wi a few
others wha were hurt, tae be picked up when Sir William came north
again. But I was tae sick tae care much.
~ez_ldquo~The monks maun hae been guid healers.
I was wanting tae be out of bed lang before they would let me. I lay
there and wished I hadna stepped on the nail, and worried about Bride no
having me tae look out for her. When at last I could get up, I kenned
how many beams were in the ceiling of the room I'd been in, how many
beds were in the room (twelve in three rows of four), and which patient
the different snores were belonging tae. And then was another time time
of waiting, waiting for my general tae return...I helped the monks in
the garden, attended Mass wi them, and talked wi them. I talked
especially wi a young monk wi green eyes~ez_mdash~Brother Benedictus. I thought
he would hae made a better soldier than monk, but if he had been a
soldier I would probably hae thought the other way. He was best suited
tae be a crusader.
~ez_ldquo~At lang last Sir William came north
again, and we were a' able tae rejoin him. He was on his way tae resume
his attacks on the English army, wha were still marching north. Comyn
and his men werena wi him. I supposed they maun be about other business;
what it was I kenned not.
~ez_ldquo~I heard a rumor that night, around a
campfire, that Comyn and Sir William had quarreled during the raid, that
in fact that Comyn had said something sae insulting that someone had
knocked him down. Of course this set me wondering. I told my friend
Malcolm Dubh what I had heard and asked him if he kenned if it was true.
Tae my surprise he gave a great rumbling laugh. 'It would be that. And
wasna he a sight when he got up, wi a face as red as his hair! But 'twas
a dreadful scolding I was getting frae Sir William for it.' He wasna
laughing noo. 'The evil of it is that Comyn blames Sir William for my
deed, which is in no way fair. I doubt they will be working together
~ez_ldquo~I thought this ill news, for it seemed
tae me that the only possible way tae drive the Southrons out again was
tae be unified. But there was nae point in saying this. If Comyn had
taken a grudge, there was little that could be done about it noo. Comyns
were aye a trouble, they and their kin. I still hae times when I wonder
what would hae happened if I had had the sense tae tell about those
~ez_ldquo~We forded the river Forth, and wi hard
marching caught up wi the English sooner than you might expect. Sir
William didna scruple tae march us about as hard as we could take, but
he was even harder on himself. He would be traveling, and often
fighting, a' day, and then he would be up late at night discussing
strategy and studying a map by firelight. I wondered how he did it.
~ez_ldquo~Edward and his son Edward and their
army kept on north. We followed them, but could do nothing mair than
harass them as before. We were far tae few tae bring them tae battle.
Comyn perhaps had enough tae hae done it, if he had had an advantageous
~ez_ldquo~Why make this part of my story ower
lang? Edward marched as far north as he pleased, devastating tae an
extent that doubtless was pleasing him greatly, then turned around and
came tae Dumfermline, where he settled for some time.
~ez_ldquo~On an iron-dreary day in late
December, we were in a rocky place in the mountains above the Forth when
twa men wha had gone out tae get deer came back wi a man besides, an
English herald wha had lost himself while looking for Sir William
Wallace. The fellow was wearing a cloak of the brightest yellow you
could be thinking of, looked at us as if we were the muck beneath his
fine shoes, and spoke French as loudly as if he was thinking my general
~ez_ldquo~'Edward, by the grace of God king of
England, Wales and Scotland--' here was a much frowning and muttering,
and one man snapped, 'Wha are you talking about? There's nae such man!'
But the yellow peacock was a herald, and so maun be treated wi courtesy.
'~ez_mdash~Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine offers you full pardon and even
reward upon submission tae your king,' he shouted. Sir William said
nothing, but waited sternly for the man tae finish.
~ez_ldquo~'King Edward is victorious,~ez_rdquo~ bellowed
the herald. 'It is folly tae resist longer. You will do Scotland nae
service by keeping up this treason!' He pulled out a sack frae under his
cloak. It clinked as he moved it. 'This gold--'
~ez_ldquo~'Is useless,' cut in Sir William,
quietly but wi a sternness that might hae intimidated a braver man than
Sir Yellow-cloak. 'You say I should not continue in treason; I say
nothing will make me commit it. Tell your king that I hae devoted my
life tae the service of my country, tae which it is due, and if I can do
Scotland nae other service, I will die in its defense. ~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~The most part of those wha had
gathered around shouted in approval of this reply, but Bride beside me
stared at her clenched fist in her lap.
~ez_ldquo~The herald saw nae reason tae stay
longer, and he and his yellow cloak stomped awa. A couple of us went wi
him, tae point him in the right direction. He seemed tae think they were
deaf tae. Of course once they came back we moved tae a different
campsite, so as no tae be found by the Southron army.
~ez_ldquo~Langshanks spent the winter in
Dunfermline; we spent it in the mountain country of the north, living
like outlaws~ez_mdash~we were outlaws, in Edward's eyes. I feared the cold winter
would be tae much for my auld uncle, but he was in fine health, and
verra proud he was of it. But Bride caught a cough, and it was for
lingering. This troubled me, but she laughed at my worrying. Her laugh
was like the sound of wee bells.
~ez_ldquo~But colder than the winter, and harder
than the ice, was kenning that this time Edward hadna been stopped.
Perhaps in the spring Sir William could gather an army, or Comyn...
~ez_ldquo~Before spring came, Sir Simon Fraser
found us. ~ez_lsquo~I hae ill news,' said Sir Simon.
~ez_ldquo~'What?' asked Sir William, wha had
gone tae greet him.
~ez_ldquo~'Edward was about tae cross the forth,
heading south. The guardian, John Comyn tried tae stop him, but we were
scattered. Edward headed north again. Twa days ago
[5. Buchanan~ez_rsquo~s History of Scotland, Vol I
[George Buchanan; published 1733, London]]
Comyn submitted tae him. So I hae come tae
you.' I had no expected this, and thought it evil tidings indeed. Now
not only were we losing, but we had nae legal ruler, however poor of one
he might be, ower the country.
~ez_ldquo~'Sae the Comyn turned traitor,~ez_rsquo~ Sir
William said bitterly. ~ez_lsquo~A fine thing for the Guardian of Scotland tae
do~ez_mdash~like a shepherd banding wi the wolves!'
~ez_ldquo~'If I hae no greatly mistaken,~ez_rdquo~ said
Sir Simon, 'there will be few men of any rank wha willna follow his
lead. Edward is undefeated, and the Guardian has submitted.'
~ez_ldquo~After some mair talk, we set off the
next day for Selkirk forest. As we marched south through the pure
whiteness of the snow, we kept meeting reports of various magnates
submitting. It made for sad traveling. And Sir Thomas de Longueville was
enough affected by it a' tae sing melancholy French love ballads mair
than was altogether desirable.
~ez_ldquo~One night, camping south of the Forth
(I'm forgetting the exact place), there was a great uproar. I had sprung
tae my feet and had my sword at the ready when I saw by the firelight
what had caused a' the commotion. Wulf, wi a bit of chewed rope dangling
frae his neck, wetter and dirtier than I had ever seen a dog before, was
greeting Sir William wi ecstatic, deafening barks and whines. And a
nearby man was grumbling about beasts that had nae mair wit than tae run
ower a sleeping man.
~ez_ldquo~'He was kenning we need every man or
beast we can get,' said Bride simply. She had also risen at the clamor.
~ez_ldquo~At last Wulf was quiet, and fell
asleep beside my general~ez_mdash~quiet until about twa hours ere dawn, when he
was for repeating the whole performance. If he had been anyone else's
dog, he might hae been expelled at once, but as he was oor general's he
was privileged. After that there was always one of us verra happy, and
he was an ugly grayish hound that could hae knocked doon a child wi his
tail waving. Once we were in the Forest, he proved his worth in hunting.
~ez_ldquo~We hadna been there lang when a hunter
friendly tae us gave us the news that the hunt was on. He told Sir
William that on oor trail were the Earl of Carrick and Sir John Segrave.
This maun hae been verra unpleasant news tae Sir William, for his
brother Malcolm was in Carrick's following.
~ez_ldquo~I'm thinking that oor reason for being
in the Forest was tae build up an army. But that went no well. Some men
did come in, mostly ones frae Comyn's army wha had served under Sir
William before that. But we hadna been many tae start wi, and many had
died, while ~ez_lsquo~twas no many wha had joined. And those coming in noo were
no as many as I would hae expected. One stranger wha did join called
himself Ralph de Musselburgh. We disliked each other almost at once. He
had a narrow, guarded face, and if eyes are the windows tae the soul,
his had heavy drapery drawn across them. And he maun hae seen my dislike
(I hae never been guid at hiding such), for he went out of his way tae
be sullenly discourteous.
~ez_ldquo~We were in the area of Peebles in
early March, hoping tae add tae the army. 'Twas Sir Simon's hame
country, and he thought he would be able tae recruit some of the people.
He was correct in this, which was cheering. Some of us went tae hunt.
The people, though no longer sae anxious tae fight, were verra generous
when it came tae food, but we lived by hunting and the rare English
supply train as much as possible. One of those wha went hunting this
time was Ralph de Musselburgh.
~ez_ldquo~When the hunters returned some hours
later, Ralph was missing. We a' thought he maun hae lost himself, as
would no be strange, in an area unfamiliar tae him. I offered tae be one
of those wha went looking for Ralph, thinking perhaps 'twould be a step
tae getting along better wi each other. Bride came wi me. Twa was safer
than a large group, better tae evade any English.
~ez_ldquo~Look as we might there was nae sign of
the fellow. The March woods seemed empty, save for a few creatures that
whisked out of sight as we approached. Then Bride, a few steps ahead,
turned. 'Did you hear that?' she hissed. I listened. Nothing. Then I
heard the thudding of horse hooves, and a man's voice. 'Come. Maun find
wha it is,' Bride whispered. She dropped tae her stomach and hidden by
the undergrowth crept along the wet iciness of the earth towards the
sound. She made little mair noise than a rabbit would hae made in its
passing. I followed, but was no so guid at it as she was. Often she
would pause and lift her head, listening. At last between distant trees
I saw the flash of steel, and it was moving closer. We lay perfectly
still, well hidden by the brush and oor dull colored clothes. Soon we
could see clearly a great many men, well mounted and clothed. They came
closer. I saw wi nae sma' relief that they were no planning tae ride
through the spot where we hid. They couldna go verra quickly, for there
was much undergrowth, and the ground was poor footing. As he rode past,
I had a guid view of the leader. His face was comely after a hard,
tanned fashion. ~ez_lsquo~Twas like a face carved from bronze. I though that frae
his general appearance and dress he would be English, but 'twas hard tae
be sure. His shield was black, wi a crowned white lion rampant; I didna
recognize it. Then riding behind him, face as inscrutable as ever, I
recognized Ralph de Musselburgh. Sae we had found him.
~ez_ldquo~As soon as the last horseman was far
enough no tae hear, Bride squirmed back and hissed, 'Leader is Segrave.
I asked someone what his arms were. We maun warn Sir William, before
they get there.'
~ez_ldquo~And so we set off, crawling until we
thought we would be out of the English sight, then running as quietly as
we could, staying in cover. I took the lead here, as I was much better
wi judging direction. So we traveled in near a straight line, as much as
we could and stay in cover. Sometimes we ran bent almost double tae do
this. The branches and undergrowth clutched at us, as if they tae had
gone ower tae the Southrons and were trying tae hold us back. There was
nae sound of the English noo. Had we left them behind, or had they left
~ez_ldquo~Then ahead of us we saw the flash of
metal, and I stiffened. But then I saw many men on foot, and realized
'twas us. Bride gave a gasp of relief that was almost a sob. In a moment
we were there, sweating though 'twas March, and panting, and I told my
tale as quickly as possible tae my general.
~ez_ldquo~English in the woods. Under Segrave.
Ralph was wi them, and I dinna think a prisoner. I'm thinking they'll be
here in no lang time.'
~ez_ldquo~'Perhaps twice as many as we are. They
~ez_ldquo~As I spoke the thudding of hooves and
crashing of undergrowth could be heard ever sae faintly. We were
scattered about; most of us hadna even realized that anything was
happening. Sir William maun hae done some of the quickest thinking that
ever man did. He sounded his horn, and ordered a' on foot tae form a
shiltron. This we did quickly, though a few of the new recruits didna
ken what one was, which was a problem. But they simply followed oor
example, and tae my surprise we had a little time tae wait before the
English reached us.
~ez_ldquo~We were near one end of a large
clearing; the woods were on a' sides of it. The English formed at the
other end. They had no archers. Then Segrave's horn sounded, high and
fierce. And the English horses broke frae a stand intae a trot and frae
a trot intae a canter and frae that intae a gallop, kicking up mud and
icy slush so that Segrave's horse's cloth trappings were
spattered~ez_mdash~strange what one notices at such times. And then they were on
us, as at Falkirk. But this time ~ez_lsquo~twas no because I hadna told; that was
something tae be glad of.
~ez_ldquo~We held firm once~ez_mdash~twice~ez_mdash~a third time~ez_mdash~a
fourth~ez_mdash~and then some of oor new men wavered, and a section of the
shiltron collapsed inward under the charge. Sir William and Sir Simon
were on the spot in a moment, but before the line could be mended the
English had charged again, and a' was in confusion. I fought my way tae
Bride. She was fighting wi her sword noo, and her eyes were fiercely
blue and alive in her white, tensely blank face.
~ez_ldquo~Like this?~ez_rdquo~ Margaret tried to mimic Bride~ez_rsquo~s
expression, jumping up and waving an imaginary sword about. Kenneth
reflected that he would certainly be noseless if the sword were real.
~ez_ldquo~Aye, something like. But you had best sit
down, lass, if I~ez_rsquo~m tae go on. Noo what~ez_mdash~oh, aye. Wulf sprang past me,
snarling. I took a blow along my shoulder, and wondered if the
collarbone was broken. Above the clamor I heard my general's horn. I
heard him shout orders, but a~ez_rsquo~ about me was shouting, clashing of metal,
groans, and the battle-neighing of horses, and I couldna understand
them. The fight had became disorganized, and sae the horsemen had the
advantage. I saw my uncle for a moment, than lost him again. I didna ken
where he was noo, and there was hardly space tae think of anything. The
clearing was taking on the look of a butcher's yard, and the English had
no lost many. I struck under an English knight's shield and whirled tae
look for Bride. She was nowhere tae be seen, nor my uncle...Then a sma'
knot of those few of us mounted (no including Sir Simon Fraser)~ez_mdash~oor
general, Sir John Wallace, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, Sir Thomas de
Longueville, and a few others--charged in tae the English, while Fraser
appeared and ordered us tae form lines and fa' back tae the woods
steadily, spears out. Sae we formed up, and by the time the English
recovered frae the Scottish charge, we were in rows, one behind the
other, facing the English and slowly backing towards the woods. The
first tae rows had their spears forwards, and the men on each side of
oor phalanx held theirs out. Sae a' sides but the rear were protected,
and the woods was behind us. They charged again, but we held and
continued moving back step by step a' together. I was towards the center
of the phalanx.
~ez_ldquo~Sir William and the other horsemen
continued charging the English, wha continued charging us. Battles can
get unco' complicated. Oor horses looked like ponies next tae the great
English ones, but they were much nimbler. Sae oor horsemen would charge
tae the attack, shouting oor war cry, dart awa, wheel about and attack
frae another point, sae quickly that I almost felt bewildered and the
Southrons maun hae felt quite so.
~ez_ldquo~Sir William~ez_rsquo~s long sword flashed silver
and crimson in his hand. It seemed tae me that he and it blazed wi a
fierce light unearthly that day. The Southrons saw it tae, and shrank
back before him as they would hae frae an angel of judgment.
~ez_ldquo~The Scottish attacks distracted the
English enough frae their charges at us that we reached the woods
unbroken, and continued in a body into them, until in some yards they
became tae thick for this. Sir Simon ordered us tae scatter, and make
for a certain boulder deep in the Forest. Then he rode tae join the
other horsemen in a last great charge, tae give us time tae go. Overhead
an eagle screamed harshly.
~ez_ldquo~I found myself helping a wounded man
along through the brush, wi nae idea where Bride, my uncle, and Malcolm
Dubh were, or even if they still were, and no kenning what might hae
happened in that last charge while we were starting, wi faint sounds of
battle behind~ez_mdash~or was it pursuit? And I was helping a man wha had little
idea what was going on, and kept begging me no tae tell his mother
something~ez_mdash~what it was he didna say.
~ez_ldquo~After a while there was nae mair sound
of war, save for an occasional shout, at a great distance. I stopped
just lang enough tae bind up my companion's head, and my shoulder, and
for baith of us tae drink frae a stream. I had tae help him scoop up the
water. Then we went on. He had stopped talking, and was walking along
hanging his head and making a mumbling kind of singing. I kept a hold of
his arm, sae that he wouldna stumble. For myself, my shoulder was
painful, but neither broken nor greatly bleeding. The sword had struck
it at an angle, and done mair scraping than cutting. Other than that I
had nothing at a' serious, for which I was thankful.
~ez_ldquo~As we neared the boulder, I began
seeing some of the others, a' tired, wet frae the ice and slush, bloody
and muddy and discouraged. Few didna hae a red-stained cloth wrapped
about some part of them. I saw that the man wha had married Clotilde had
lost an arm. At the rock were gathered somewhat under a quarter of the
original force. We were tense and silent, save for a few wounded men wha
were off their heads. My companion mumbled on in his song. Mair men
straggled in, and I was greatly glad tae see Malcolm Dubh coming wi my
uncle. They were baith mair than tired. But still nae sign of Bride. And
nae sign of oor general, or of the other men wi horses. Then I heard a
cough, and saw a slim lad limping towards us, white as death and erect,
and I kenned 'twas Bride. I went tae meet her, and she said, 'Kenneth! I
was fearing you were dead.'
~ez_ldquo~'I was fearing the same for you. Are
~ez_ldquo~'Not much.' But even as she spoke she
reeled on her feet. I took her arm and guided her tae the others. A few
mair came, and then nae mair.
~ez_ldquo~I bound up Bride's sprained ankle, and
the cut down her forearm, and Malcolm Dubh's leg, and my uncle's hand.
Malcolm Dubh bound up my shoulder better than I been able tae bind it,
and the man I had helped mumbled on, tae a different tune noo. And the
whole time I was thinking of oor general wi his brave wee band of
horsemen, wha had gone charging intae the enemy sae we could get awa~ez_rsquo~.
Only about a third of us were here, and none had come for almost an
hour. Dusk began tae fall, and 'twas cold. Those of us wha had cloaks
spread them on the ground for the badly wounded. The moon rose bright,
and still the man I~ez_rsquo~d been helping sang.
~ez_ldquo~Then, far off, we heard the slow sound
of a horse's hooves. One horse, perhaps twa, we kenned as they came
closer. We stared into the shadows. Soon we could make out twa horses
and a few men and one dog. Then they were closer, and one of the men
walking was almost a giant, wi hair faintly glinting red-golden by the
moon's light~ez_mdash~and frae around the boulder, exhausted as we were, rose a
cheer that maun hae frightened every animal within a mile.
~ez_ldquo~There was not one of them but had
hurts, and Sir Roger Kirkpatrick was draped half conscious across one of
the horses, while one of us foot-soldiers was quite unknowing across the
other. Twa of the mounted men were missing altogether. Wulf had a cut
across his flank, but it didna seem tae bother him greatly.
~ez_ldquo~~ez_rdquo~Twas Sir Thomas de Longueville wha
told of their deeds, wi the same enthusiasm wi which he was wont tae
tell of the deeds of Roland. In that last charge they had been
surrounded, and had had tae cut their way out. In the melee Sir William
and Sir Simon had baith had horses killed under them. Sir Roger
Kirkpatrick had fallen wounded frae his horse, and he, Sir Thomas, had
unhorsed twa knights and remounted him. Sir William had somehow lost his
helmet in the fighting, and then had his mail hood slashed through,
which was why he was no wearing it~ez_mdash~'twas a wonder he was still living.
Twa guid Scots had been killed, both men I respected, though hardly
knew. The others had broken awa and, on foot and on horse, led the
English a~ez_rsquo~ ower the woods for hours, and finally lost them. John Wallace
had found the foot soldier lying wounded on the way here, and Sir Roger
(riding one of the twa remaining horses, because he was sore hurt) had
collapsed almost in sight of the boulder. The English horse Sir Thomas
had remounted him on had been left behind, as 'twas tae big and slow.
~ez_ldquo~We camped there the night, and I was
glad tae see that my wounded man slept. I was exhausted enough that I
~ez_ldquo~Those wha had fallen in the fighting
were many. The next day we went back for the wounded, a dangerous work
indeed. We couldna stop tae bury the men killed; for a' we kenned,
Southrons might well come along at any time. Best no tae risk the living
for the dead. But 'twas hard for the men wha had lost guid friends.
~ez_ldquo~Then we traveled deeper intae the
Forest, and here we camped, and tended the wounded. I had become guid at
the binding of wounds, and was no verra badly hurt, sae I was unco busy.
~ez_ldquo~Some of those hurt died, despite a' we
could do, and the man I had helped was ane of them. He never did come
tae his proper senses. I was sorry, for after I had helped him he seemed
like a friend. We dug graves in the half-frozen earth, and buried them.
There was nae kirk tae make it holy ground, nae priest tae perform the
rites of the Church. But my general kenned what should be done at such
times frae the priest his uncle, and did as much of it as a layman
could. And there was an oak tae mark their graves, a tree that would be
~ez_ldquo~In the next month, April, we received
news frae a friar that Edward was sieging Stirling Castle, which Sir
William Oliphant was holding for Scotland. There was nae doubt that in
time he would take it.
~ez_ldquo~There had been nae doubt that he would
try. But the tidings made us mair downhearted. Winning Scotland's
freedom seemed farther off noo than it had when we had been in the
Forest almost seven years ago. Then a' was beginning; men were eager tae
join; we had high hopes and fierce joy. But noo we had fought and bled
and died for nigh unto seven years; few wanted tae join (and we could
hardly be blaming them); and a' left in arms of the great army of
Scotland was a handful of mair and mair ragged men wha had lost a battle
sae recently that not a' wounds were healed. And Scotland was nae mair
free than at the first.
~ez_ldquo~Still we fought when we had the
chance, a ragged menace that appeared from the forest and then vanished
again. But what wi the hopelessness of it a,~ez_rsquo~ ~ez_lsquo~tis little tae be
wondered that men began deserting. In the morning a man would be gone~ez_hellip~a
hunter wouldna return. And sae on top of a' the rest, we were slowly
shrinking. What Sir William thought in those days I canna ken, save that
he was planning, planning. And if he had the same dull feeling of having
traveled in a circle, he didna show it, save for that the seeing look
was on his face mair than it had used tae be. And there were times when
I felt it right uncanny, as I had after the battle at Falkirk.
~ez_ldquo~ In May we heard that Bishop Lamberton
had submitted. He had waited longer than most. The submitting had gone
on at a great rate. Sir William, Sir Simon, Sir William Oliphant, and
John Soules (in France) were the only leaders left, as far as I kenned.
And as the siege went on, and there were sae few of us we couldna hope
tae stop it, or tae drive Edward out again, I saw that Sir Simon and Sir
Roger were becoming uneasy. At least Bride's cough was better. I could
see few other bright points.
~ez_ldquo~Sae matters stood when in early June
Sir John Wallace came intae camp wi an Englishman he had found riding in
the Forest, carrying a flag of truce. I came tae see wha he had found,
and tae my surprise I found myself thinking that had the fellow no been
English I might hae liked him much. His light brown hair stuck out
awkwardly frae beneath his mail hood, and his face was verra solemn,
though I thought that would be uncommon for him. His eyes were frank and
~ez_ldquo~'I am looking for Sir William Wallace,
the commander,' he said. 'I hae been sent wi a message for him.'
~ez_ldquo~'Another messenger?' said Sir Roger,
wha was almost healed noo. 'Come then.'
~ez_ldquo~Such comings always made me curious,
sae I followed also. Sir William looked up frae the map he and Sir Simon
~ez_ldquo~'Another English messenger, Sir
William,' said Kirkpatrick.
~ez_ldquo~'Are you Sir William Wallace?' asked
the messenger. He seemed verra serious, slightly ill at ease. I
suspected that he had never carried a message tae an enemy camp before.
~ez_ldquo~'I am. You hae been sent wi a
~ez_ldquo~'King Edward bade me tell you that a'
of your men wha submit shall be pardoned immediately; and if you submit,
he will pardon you, and will make you an earl wi great lands of your
choice, either in Scotland or in England.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~Sir William was about tae reply when
Sir Simon said, 'Dinna refuse tae hastily.' My general looked at him wi
~ez_ldquo~'What do you mean?'
~ez_ldquo~'I can see nae way in which continuing
the fight benefits Scotland. It has become hopeless.'
~ez_ldquo~'Aye,' said Kirkpatrick. 'Sir Simon
has said my thought.'
~ez_ldquo~'William, they may be right,' said
John Wallace. 'If you continue the fight, I am wi you; but surely you
canna still think you will free Scotland!'
~ez_ldquo~'While I live, no; but does that make
it less my duty tae defend it?'
~ez_ldquo~He looked searchingly at the men
around him; as always we had gathered steadily at the sight of a
messenger. As his gaze came tae me I straightened and looked straight
back at him. I had nothing tae hide. I kenned that never would I desert
him, no after his forgiving me for Falkirk. But many didna meet his
look, and I felt a cold heavy feeling in my stomach. I had seen this
coming, yet I hadna expected it, if that makes any sense tae you.
~ez_ldquo~'I see,' he said, speaking like a man
in pain. 'O desolate Scotland, tae much believing false words, tae
unwary of woes tae come! If you were tae judge as I do, you would no
readily place your neck under a foreign yoke. When I was a youth, I
learned frae my uncle, a priest, tae set this one proverb above a'
worldly possessions, and I hae carried it in my heart:
~ez_ldquo~I tell you the truth, freedom is the finest
never live under a servile yoke, my son.'
tae the messenger, wha had stood by. 'And sae I tell you briefly that
even if a~ez_rsquo~ Scots obey the king of England sae that each one abandons his
liberty, I and my companions wha wish tae be associated wi me in this
matter shall stand up for the liberty of the kingdom. And (may God be
favorable tae us!) we others shall obey nae one but the King of Scots or
his lieutenant. '
~ez_ldquo~'Bravely answered, Sir Knight!'
exclaimed the messenger. Then he recollected himself, flushed pink tae
his ears, and said 'King Edward anticipated that you would refuse these
terms. Sae he gave me a second offer. If you will submit yourself tae
him, he will as his vassal grant you the crown of Scotland.' I gasped,
like a fish suddenly out of water. 'Are we dreaming?' Bride hissed in my
~ez_ldquo~'My answer is the same tae that offer,'
replied my general. 'I should be a great traitor
tae accept it. My crowning, when the time
has come, is tae be in Westminster Hall, and no for reward of treason,
but for refusing tae commit it.' This last part, about being crowned,
made not the least sense tae me. I think 'twas wi him that time as wi
[6. A History Book for Scots: Selections
frae Scotichronicon [Walter Bower, edited by D. E. R. Watt; copyright
University of St Andrews 1998]. Also Sir William Wallace [A. F. Murison,
prophets, wha are given words and maun say
~ez_ldquo~The messenger looked puzzled, as well
he might. 'Your final answer is no, Sir?' he said after a moment.
~ez_ldquo~Sir, that is a brave answer but no a
wise one,~ez_rdquo~ said the messenger, stumbling a little ower his words. 'Times
change. The tree that doesna bend wi the wind cracks and falls.'
'Aye, times change. Truth doesna, and
it is the rock the tree may cling tae and stand fast.'
~ez_ldquo~'I hae said what I came tae say,' said
the messenger. He turned his horse. 'I-I willna tell where you are
camped,' he said, as one wha had just made up his mind, flushing again.
~ez_ldquo~I saw that he was speaking the truth,
and I found myself saying tae him, 'I would that you werena English.'
~ez_ldquo~'There are times when I wish the same
myself,' he said gravely. He raised his hand in a courteous farewell,
and rode awa'.
~ez_ldquo~'Those offers willna be made again,'
said Sir Simon.
~ez_ldquo~'Then I'll no hae tae refuse them
again,' replied my general. ~ez_ldquo~Would you hae accepted them, in my place?'
~ez_ldquo~'I hae nae wish tae be king of Scots,'
said Sir Simon wi a twisted smile, 'but the first offer I would hae
taken. I canna see any use in carrying on such a hopeless fight as this
~ez_ldquo~'You are free tae go,' said Sir
William. 'Edward will pardon you for your crime of being a Scot.' I
could see that he was somewhere between his friendship for Sir Simon and
his certainty that tae submit was treason. Myself, I thought that
probably my general was right, but I could understand Sir Simon's
thinking verra well. I didna think there was any great likelihood of
winning again either. But that didna matter. I was staying wi my
general, and he would stand for Scotland. There was nae uncertainty
~ez_ldquo~Sir Simon did leave, and sae did Sir
Roger--'tis mair than surprising what a few months of little hope can do
tae a man. Nae mair than half a year before, neither would hae even
considered such a thing as submitting tae Langshanks. They stayed only
tae gather up their possessions and bid farewell. A few of the men were
of Sir Roger's following, and some had joined for Sir Simon~ez_rsquo~s sake, and
they left wi them. Sir John Wallace stayed. 'And you, Sir Thomas,~ez_rsquo~ Sir
William asked Longueville, '--what will you do?'
~ez_ldquo~Sir Thomas had been unco quiet
throughout the whole scene wi the messenger. Now he stepped forward and
bowed beautifully, after the French fashion. 'A' my life hae I sought
the honor gained by valiant feats of arms. But you, Sir William, hae
taught me of a higher honor. Tae stand fast for the right even in (as it
may be) the ending. That is the honor I noo desire.' Sir Thomas's
speech, told, doesna sound precisely cheerful, but sae shining was his
joy ower this new honor tae win that we hardly noticed the bit about
this being the ending.
~ez_ldquo~But the words came back tae me later,
and I wondered if this indeed was the ending. We were reduced tae a sma'
band of outlaws, attacking Southrons that came into the forest or near
it. There were little mair than one hundred of us, plus twa horses, and
a dog. And we were no growing. Indeed, there had been a spurt of
deserting (which seemed tae be about done noo) after Sir Simon and Sir
Roger left. But in late June we greeted a new recruit.
~ez_ldquo~'Brother Benedictus!' I gasped.
~ez_ldquo~'Aye. 'Tis guid tae be seeing you
again, Kenneth.' He pulled a tiny packet out of his robe and held it out
tae Sir William. 'A letter frae the Bishop of St. Andrews. And a
soldier, if you want me.'
~ez_ldquo~'Can you fight?' asked Sir William
~ez_ldquo~'Better than you might think, Sir. I
practiced often wi one of the other monks~ez_mdash~speaking of the other monks, I
should tell you that I didna ask my superior~ez_rsquo~s permission for coming. I
saw one of the Bishop~ez_rsquo~s servants on the way here, and he gave me this
letter tae bring tae you.'
~ez_ldquo~'You are verra welcome here.' Sir
William opened the letter and read. He looked up smiling. 'Better news
than ever I looked for! The bishop is involved in organizing a new
rising.' No mair would he say of it, save that the Bishop had ordered
him tae secrecy about the details.
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~Sae 'tisna sunset for Scotland after
a',~ez_rdquo~ Malcolm Dubh said, testing his sword edge wi one scarred finger.
~ez_ldquo~In verra late July we learned frae a
man wha lived on the outskirts of the forest that Edward had taken
Stirling. The man came a' the way tae the midst of the forest tae tell
us, and brought a basket of vegetables besides.
~ez_ldquo~We had a' known that Edward would take
it, but still 'twas like a blow tae the stomach. The guid news was that
noo he was heading south for England again. We had some harrying tae do.
~ez_ldquo~And sae in the heat of August we
marched north, by hidden ways. The Scots along the way couldna hae been
kinder, but only twa new men did we add. In time we passed Edward coming
down, and turned tae trail him, as we had done sae many other times.
This time there was little devastating done by the Southrons. Langshanks
maun hae been satisfied that he had broken Scotland's spirit. Indeed, I
was wondering. There were none still in arms save ourselves, a hundred
or so, and by noo ragged as beggars. But the Bishop was planning...I
reminded myself of that often and often, using it as a shield against
the dark sword of despair.
~ez_ldquo~There isna much tae tell of that march
south. We fought, and we hid, and we trailed. We followed them nae
farther then the Forest. The Forest felt almost like hame noo. It was a
guid friend tae us in those days, and one that wouldna betray.
~ez_ldquo~Wi Langshanks and many of his men once
out of the way, 'twas time tae be doing. Sir William decided tae try
gathering men in the north. Sae we went north. But somehow among the
hills, early in September, we almost ran intae a force of English
commanded by Aymer de Valance. I dinna think they expected us any mair
than we them. We leveled oor spears and ran down hill at them, shouting
oor old war cry. There were few enough tae shout noo. And they charged
at us. We met, and then I felt a sharp pain in my head and a' went
black. Why it happened that way for me sae often, I canna tell you.
~ez_ldquo~I woke lying in heather, wi a wide
blue sky overhead, and steep rocky slopes around. Bride was kneeling
beside me, wi her hand on my heart, painfully white and tense. 'O
Kenneth, Kenneth, I thought you would dee for sure this time. We a'
thought sae...you've been unknowing for three days noo.'
~ez_ldquo~'The battle~ez_mdash~what happened?' I asked
~ez_ldquo~'Just after it begun you were struck
on the head. The blow didna pierce your mail, thanks be tae God and the
saints! But you fell like dead, and I fought standing ower you...'twas
Malcom Dubh that brought you out.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~'Let's be putting it this way; about
three-fourths of us managed tae be getting awa, and they lost several
men and many horses.'
~ez_ldquo~'Sir William? Malcolm Dubh? My
uncle? Brother Benedict?'
~ez_ldquo~'None hurt as badly as yourself; but
the other Malcolm Dubh was killed.' After a moment she said softly,
'Isna it strange tae think that just seven years ago today we won the
battle at Stirling Brig?'
~ez_ldquo~'Aye. Aye, tis verra strange,' I said,
and my hand closed ower hers. She let it remain for a moment and then
sprang up. 'I maun go tell that you hae wakened.'
~ez_ldquo~That head wound took a verra lang time
tae heal. For months after that, I had times when a' would go black. I
prayed that wouldna happen while fighting.
~ez_ldquo~Even my general couldna persuade men
tae join him when he was dressed like a beggar and had just lost a
skirmish. One man did join us. He was young and his love had wed
~ez_ldquo~But though the men of the north
wouldna join they were verra hospitable. Once they learned of oor
presence, the chiefs would insist on us staying wi them, and on feeding
us. I never saw more hospitable people than those northern chiefs. In
exchange for hunting deer we even gained new clothes, which we were much
needing. Of course they were of the northern fashion.
~ez_ldquo~Bride kept her hood, ragged as 'twas.
I though that it maun seem strange tae the others that a 'lad' of her
age would no hae a beard; either they didna think of it, or chose no tae
say aught of it.
~ez_ldquo~After we gained oor new clothes it
hand gone better wi the recruiting, though inevitably we would hae tae
explain how we came tae be dressed as men of the north. By early
October we added about a score and five of men. Sae noo we numbered
little under a hundred.
~ez_ldquo~And one evening, a horseman came
riding along a steep path, and I thought I had seen him before. He came
closer, and I recognized him. ''Tis Malcolm Wallace!' I exclaimed tae my
uncle. He galloped up. 'Adam! Kenneth! 'tis guid tae see faces frae hame!
Where is my brother William? I hae a letter for him.'
~ez_ldquo~'Trying tae gather men tae fight
Edward,' said my uncle. 'If you wait, I'm expecting he will be back ere
~ez_ldquo~This was so. Sir William appeared in
about half an hour. 'Nae success,' he said briefly. 'They dinna~ez_mdash~Malcolm!
How came you here?'
~ez_ldquo~'On my horse. I hae a letter for you.'
~ez_ldquo~Sir William took the letter and opened
and read it in the spot. 'You are a bringer of guid tidings, Malcolm,'
he said joyfully when he had finished.
~ez_ldquo~Of course, I was wanting tae ken what
the guid tidings were. I kenned that they maun be frae Bruce, and I
supposed about the rising that Bishop Lamberton was planning. But if
many are told of a rising which is being secretly planned, it is secret
nae mair. Sir William was wise tae keep much tae himself. [*]
[*That Bruce and Lamberton were in alliance
before Bruce rose is fact. Sir William knowing about their plans, or
being involved, is very possible. It is not, however, proven. ]
~ez_ldquo~Soon after that we marched south
again. And, wi the Forest for oor base, we fought a war of ambushes and
attacks on small groups of Southrons, once even seized and burned tae
the ground a sma' fortress. Now that Edward was gone, it was the time
for such a war.
~ez_ldquo~Winter came on unco cold and early
that year, and the hunting was no guid. It is nae fine thing tae be an
outlaw in winter... My uncle became ill in December. We found a man and
his wife wha were willing tae take him in and nurse him, and ca' him her
father if any asked questions. I went by night tae see him as often as I
could. But his cough became worse, and wouldna go awa. I was there when
he died. He was a guid man, a true Scot. I missed him greatly.
~ez_ldquo~We tightened oor belts, and oor cheeks
grew hollow. I envied Wulf's ability tae live on bones and wee creatures
he hunted. Thanks be tae God, sometimes someone would bring us
something, and twice we captured a baggage train, that winter. There was
hunting, but it is hard for many tae live on that alone, in the winter.
I tried tae give Bride part of my portion, but she wouldna take it.
Sometimes some Scot wha had lost a' at the English hands would come tae
us for help, no kenning how little we had ourselves. But as always Sir
William helped them. He never made us give, but he kenned well that we
would follow him in this.
~ez_ldquo~There is something about half freezing
and half starving together that makes men close. That winter, mair than
ever before, we a' became like kin tae each other, sharing a' we had.
There was nae mair deserting. Those of us wha were there were in for aye
(or so it seemed), though some of the new men frae the north were for
missing their hames greatly. But they had kenned how it would be when
they had joined. Though 'twas a cruel winter ~ez_rsquo~twas also a guid one, for
the loyalty that was grown among us.
~ez_ldquo~But when the first signs of spring
came, we were mair glad of it than I can say. And wi the first blossoms
came another messenger, frae Lamberton, wi another letter. After that
there were many letters. The planning maun hae been going right well.
One time in June when a man was needed tae take a message tae Bruce of
Carrick, I was the first tae volunteer. I thought 'twas safe enough, for
I hadna had the world go black for nigh unto four months noo. I was tae
go on foot, and alone. Sir William gave me the letter, rolled up verra
~ez_ldquo~'Learn it by heart,' he said,'--it
isna lang~ez_mdash~sae you can still carry the message, even if you should lose
the paper. It's sma' enough that you can swallow it if need be. The
message is ~ez_ldquo~Frae the one you ken of tae the lord of the castle,
greeting. I dinna think your plan of waiting for the next sun tae rise
is guid. The present sun may well be lang in setting. Your lands hae
waited for you lang enough as it is.~ez_rdquo~
~ez_ldquo~He had me repeat the message (I
translated it for you, but ~ez_lsquo~twas in French) until I knew every word of
it. ~ez_lsquo~You are tae say tae him that a storm is coming frae the north.
Then he will ken you are frae me. And, Kenneth, run nae risks that you
dinna need tae.'
memorizing it on the way, and I memorized it so well that I still
remember every word of it. I was verra proud that my general trusted me
tae carry out this mission and tae ken what was in the letter.
~ez_ldquo~As you can tell, Margaret, the letter
was in a sort of code. After lang puzzling I decided that the case
might be that Bruce was wanting tae delay rising until Edward I was
dead, perhaps thinking his son would be easier tae deal wi. And frae the
last sentence I thought that the new rising was probably tae end wi
Bruce as king. Since Balliol was no wanting the crown, Bruce was the
natural choice. The Red Comyn was the other possibility, but he could
never hae united Scotland. He was far tae quarrelsome.
~ez_ldquo~I hae sometimes wondered why a king
maun be chosen based on wha his forefathers are, instead of wha he is.
As it turned out, the Bruce proved tae hae what it takes tae make a
great king. But if he hadna, we would still hae had tae try tae get
either he or Comyn or one of their cousins on the throne, and no anyone
else, however well-suited they might hae been tae be king. ~ez_lsquo~Tis a
strange thing, and one that isna any use tae talk about.
~ez_ldquo~On the outskirts of the Forest I found
a Scot willing tae trade an old outfit for my northern clothes, which
would hae been conspicuous. I had left my sword wi Malcolm Dubh, for the
difference between its~ez_rsquo~ fineness~ez_mdash~~ez_lsquo~twas fit for a knight~ez_mdash~and my
appearance would hae caused curiosity. But I had a knife. I traveled by
hidden ways, by night. No one interfered wi me.
~ez_ldquo~That is, until I was quite near tae
Turnberry Castle, where I expected tae find Bruce. 'Twas dawn, and as I
was sae close I kept walking. Then coming frae in front of me I heard
hoof beats. The land was open where I was, sae ~ez_lsquo~twas nae place tae
hide. I decided tae walk on; I looked like any young common man of
Scotland. The rider was a tall man, galloping on a large horse. As he
drew nearer I didna stare, and respectfully took off my bonnet. Tae my
dismay the horse stopped. 'Wha are you, and what do you here?' asked a
vaguely familiar voice. 'Methinks I hae seen you before.' This could be
disastrous. My hand was in my pouch, closed about the letter. As I
slowly raised my head I brushed my hand before my mouth. I gulped the
paper down. 'Are you dumb, man?' asked the rider. I looked up quickly,
and recognized Bruce of Carrick, wha I had seen before, wi his yellow
hair much blown about frae his riding.
~ez_ldquo~'Nae, Sir, I am no dumb, ' I replied.
'But methinks a storm is coming frae the north.' The sun was rising
bright and clear as I said it.
~ez_ldquo~Bruce smiled. 'I see little sign of
it. But come wi me.'
~ez_ldquo~I followed him back the castle, and
into a sma' room. He closed and locked the heavy door. I had a sudden
fear that perhaps he had turned English again and this was a trap. But I
fought it down. 'You will be having a letter for me?' he asked.
~ez_ldquo~I did, Sir, but before I recognized
you I swallowed it. But I hae it memorized.' Bruce laughed. 'You did the
swallowing well. I truly didna observe it. Sae what was the message?' I
repeated it word for word in French. Bruce looked thoughtful. Then he
said, 'Tell Wallace that the time is not yet ripe for a rising. I think
that Edward willna live lang, and 'twould be best tae wait.' I was
startled tae find myself saying, ~ez_lsquo~Sir, I think that my general would say
that the time is always ripe for right deeds.'
~ez_ldquo~Bruce flushed slightly. 'You will hae
been wi him a lang time?'
~ez_ldquo~I thought so. He is a brave man, but
somewhat lacking in prudence...he doesna understand that at certain
times and for certain reasons a man maun pretend tae go along wi evil,
sae that in the end he may defeat it. But there, I meant not tae
offend,' he added courteously, seeing my expression. I thought that his
going along wi the English, at Falkirk and other times, had hardly been
pretense, but I didna say so. Soon after I took my leave, although he
asked me tae stay and hae a meal. I had brought sufficient food for
baith the coming and the going, and wanted tae return as speedily as
~ez_ldquo~I traveled by day on my way back, and
again met wi nae interference, save for that of a great rainstorm. But
'twas ower in twa hours. I found the others after some searching, and
told Sir William as nearly as I could remember of my talk wi the Bruce.
He was displeased by Bruce's message that the time was no yet, I
thought, but at my reply tae it he smiled, and said that ~ez_lsquo~twas no
everyone wha would be bold enough tae say that tae an earl's face.
After that I carried several messages, tae various people, among them
Sir Simon Fraser and Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, Bishop Lamberton, a peddlar
who would take the message tae the Abbot of Scone, and a friar who would
bear another message tae the Bishop of Moray.
~ez_ldquo~The time I remember best is when in
early July I was sent tae Lamberton, wi a message by word of mouth, in
answer tae a message frae him brought by a man on his way tae a far off
town~ez_mdash~I hae forgotten which it was. I had never gone tae Lamberton
before. Outside the bishop's gate a man of about twenty was standing. He
was black-haired, tall and well built. But I thought him one of the
plainest young men I had seen. When he smiled in greeting I changed my
mind about that.
~ez_ldquo~'Why are you come?' he asked quietly
and eagerly as soon as I was close.
~ez_ldquo~'I am come tae see the bishop about
the seven fish his man stole frae me.' This was the code sentence, of
course. 'I'll take you tae him then,' he said, and led me inside. Once
inside the Bishop's dwelling he said, 'We hae been expecting you, though
we didna ken just wha you would be. And so you are frae Wallace.' He
spoke wi a lisp, but still wi dignity no common in men of his age.
~ez_ldquo~'My father fought wi him in the attack
on Ormsby, in 1297. Sir William of Douglas. He died in English prison. I
am James, his eldest son.' I had heard of Douglas's death. Looking at
James of Douglas, it crossed my mind that he would that the English pay
dearly for it.
~ez_ldquo~'I was in that attack also,' I said.
~ez_ldquo~'Then will you tell me of it, once you
are done speaking wi Bishop Lamberton?'
~ez_ldquo~I agreed, and after I had told Bishop
Lamberton a whole list of knights, sons of knights, and a few priests
who had decided tae rise again for Scotland so soon as all was in
readiness (which meant so soon as Bruce thought it time tae become
king), I told James of Douglas about the fight at Scone, and especially
about his father's deeds. At the end he thanked me. Then he said, wi
quiet and fierce determination, 'He shall no be unavenged.' And for a
moment, as he said it, his eyes became blue-gray steel.
~ez_ldquo~I remember verra well the evening when
Sir William said that he was going tae Glasgow tae speak wi Bishop
Wishart. He was only taking twa men. 'Mair than that men would be hard
tae exchange clothing for, and tae conspicuous,' he said.
~ez_ldquo~'You are always conspicuous, Sir
William,' said one of the older men bluntly and truly. Nae man can be
head and shoulders above almost everyone else without being noticeable.
And if he carries himself like a king he is no less so. 'Isna this
something someone else could do?'
~ez_ldquo~I maun talk tae Bishop Wishart
myself,' Sir William replied. We kenned talking against this plan would
do no guid. And, as I told myself, if he could ensure that the bishop
would help wi this rising, 'twould be a great thing for Scotland. The
bishop was one of the most powerful, if not indeed the most powerful,
men of the kirk in the country.
~ez_ldquo~That night was cool for July, and I
was wakeful. At last I rose and walked about. I nearly ran into someone
near the dying campfire, and realized 'twas Sir William. He was staring
intae the coals, and looked up as if startled.
"'I couldna sleep,' I said. He made a
motion for me tae sit down, sae I did. An owl was hooting in the
blue-blackness above. He began speaking, softly.
"'Scotland will be free, though a lang
and weary fight it has been--and will be yet, I doubt not.' He looked at
me. 'Kenneth, I shallna see it. I hae kenned this some time." By the
light of the coals I could see the pain on his face. I wondered suddenly
how often it had been like this for him, and we never seeing~ez_mdash~no that he
would hae wanted us tae see. 'But Your will be done,' he whispered
hoarsely after a moment. And I remembered when we had been lads, and did
what I would at other times never hae done, so much was he my general in
my mind. I laid my hand on his shoulder. And we sat there while the
night-creatures rustled and hooted and I wondered why some things maun
be. Perhaps an hour later he stood up. 'You will be needing your sleep,'
he said gently, ~ez_lsquo~and I will tae. I'll be leaving before dawn.' As I
turned tae obey, he held me back for a moment. ~ez_lsquo~The freedom will be
worth it a~ez_rsquo~,~ez_rsquo~ he said, almost fiercely.
I looked back once
and saw him still standing, a dark shape against the fire, alone.
~ez_ldquo~I woke early, but he had already gone,
and wi him the twa others and Wulf. After some days had passed Wulf
limped back alone. He had a great red gash across his muzzle, and
another on his flank.
~ez_ldquo~'Wulf, what happened tae you?' Bride
asked dismayed, going down on her knees and holding out her hand. He
came and sniffed at it, then turned his nose toward Glasgow and howled,
a lang-drawn howl that at the end became one wi the howling of the wind.
Bride's eyes were blue and afraid. 'Kenneth, what happened? Why did he
come alone? Kenneth?'
~ez_ldquo~'A' of us were asking these questions,
but none could answer. Bride bound up Wulf's hurts as best she could,
and we gave him a piece of venison. Then he started limping a little
ways back the way he had come, looking at us appealingly. We were a'
looking at each other, a' fearing the same. John Wallace had beads of
sweat standing out on his face. A' together, wi nae words spoken, we
grabbed up oor weapons and some provisions (some among us were
invincibly practical) and set off after Wulf. We traveled fast, for we
kenned oor way tae Glasgow, and most of the way Malcolm Dubh or another
carried Wulf, wha was verra weak. We were a few miles away, and deciding
that only a few of us had better go into the town, as we would indeed be
conspicuous if we stayed together, when a man on horseback riding
towards us stopped. I recognized him for a man wha had been wi us once,
but had submitted wi Comyn. 'Are you looking for Sir William Wallace?'
~ez_ldquo~'Aye,' said Sir John Wallace quickly.
~ez_ldquo~'I hae ill news,' said the man. 'He
was captured on the night of the third.~ez_rdquo~ Bride clutched desperately at
my sleeve. All around were questions, questions, John Wallace's face as
white as salt, blue sky~ez_mdash~it a' seemed unreal. It couldna hae happened.
There was some mistake, But deep inside I kenned that it had happened,
and nae news could hae been worse. I would hae rather a thousand times
been killed than captured by the English. Tae be killed in battle is the
fate of many brave men. There is nae shame in it, and often ~ez_lsquo~tis soon
ower. But tae be captured by the English is tae be humiliated, made a
show of and butchered~ez_mdash~the Southrons ca~ez_rsquo~ it executed.
~ez_ldquo~'He was taken by John of Mentieth,
they say.' the man said angrily. 'May ill pursue the traitor, born a
Scot as he was! My wife and I were wakened in the night by sounds of
fighting in the place next tae us. Then after a while, we saw frae oor
window that men were coming out, and twa were carrying torches. And Sir
William was among them, and bound.'
~ez_ldquo~'And you did nothing?' flashed Bride.
~ez_ldquo~There were fifty of them, lad, and but
one of me. I ken not where they went after that.'
~ez_ldquo~A few of us, I among them, went into
the town after that, and talked tae mair people. They a' said it was
true, but could tell us nae mair, save that the one man wi oor general
was killed, and the other had betrayed him. These tidings made us mair
woeful and angry than we had been, if such was possible. A few of us
went tae the place where it had happened, but there was nae sign of
Kerlie~ez_rsquo~s body. We found that some of the townsfolk had buried him, in
~ez_ldquo~Wi no idea which direction they had
taken Sir William, and days gone by since, we kenned in oor hearts that
there was nothing we could do. We couldna catch up tae them before they
entered England, and once in England, there was about as much chance of
being able tae pull off a rescue as there was of the sun rising in the
west. By noo they would be well on their way, in what direction we
kenned not. Doubtless they had horses, and would travel fast at least
until out of Scotland. Even if we trailed them wi a dog, there was nae
chance of catching up in time. In the end we started back tae oor camp,
no kenning what else tae do. That night we camped along the way. There
was nothing tae hurry for, no one tae keep us moving past the time when
we were wanting tae stop. There had been many a time I thought the
marching ower-long, but noo I would hae been glad tae hae walked a~ez_rsquo~
night if only he were here tae tell be tae do it.
~ez_ldquo~We a~ez_rsquo~ felt lost, I ken, like a flock of
sheep wha hae lost their shepherd. It crossed my mind that we wouldna
hold together verra long noo. But this didna seem tae matter. My head
was filled with a gray mist, and I sat stupidly on a stump. God is
merciful in that the worst happenings always seem as though they couldna
~ez_ldquo~Then I thought of Bride, and realized
that she wasna in sight. Sae I went looking. At last I heard a dreadful
low moaning and found her, lying face down in the tall grass. She heard
me coming and sprang up, her face white and twisted, dry-eyed and hard.
~ez_ldquo~'Bride,' I said, and then stopped, no
kenning what words should follow.
~ez_ldquo~''Tis guid you hae come,' she said in
a strange, flat voice. 'I couldna go without saying guid-bye tae you.'
~ez_ldquo~'Go? What are you talking of?'
~ez_ldquo~'I am going tae London.'
~ez_ldquo~'Bride, you've gone mad. You surely
are no meaning it?'
~ez_ldquo~'That is where they will take him,
~ez_ldquo~'Aye, but why are you going? What guid
could you do?'
~ez_ldquo~'I am going because I maun. And if
you tell the others, so as tae stop me, I will get awa somehow. Ye ken I
will!' I saw that despite her flat voice she was in such a state that
she couldna think practically; I saw also that in a' likelihood she
would get awa as she said, and be in England a' alone, wi no one tae
protect her. There was but one thing tae do, and I did it.
~ez_ldquo~'Then I am going wi you.'
~ez_ldquo~'Because I maun.'
~ez_ldquo~'It is guid you will come,' she said
dully. 'We maun leave noo, and travel wi little stopping. Once in
England we can steal horses--'
~ez_ldquo~'Tis enemy country. And if you willna,
~ez_ldquo~We left that same night as she had
said, waiting until ~ez_lsquo~twas quite dark sae none would notice. I had proper
costume, but she was dressed as a northern man. That could be remedied.
I left my sword and spear. They would hae been tae conspicuous. But I
was armed wi my knife, and sae was Bride wi hers. And she carried a bow
and a quiver of arrows. I wished greatly tae say guid-bye tae Malcolm
Dubh, for well I kenned I might never see him again. But he would try
tae stop us, and in that case Bride would probably slip awa somehow and
set off alone. And that I was determined tae prevent. We took some
venison, which was plentiful, this time of year. No one seemed tae
notice us leaving, and I breathed a wee easier. I couldna believe that
Bride and I were actually creeping awa frae the others and heading for
London. ~ez_lsquo~Twas tae daft of an idea.
~ez_ldquo~Wulf stirred as we crept awa but didna
bark. 'Puir lad!' whispered Bride. Once out of hearing of the others I
swore by the cross of St. Andrew tae treat her as a sister in a' honor.
It seemed right tae take such an oath, seeing what verra peculiar
circumstances we were in.
~ez_ldquo~In the morning she traded her outfit
for one less noticeable. But still she wore her hood.
~ez_ldquo~We slept verra little, and ate
walking. It a' seemed like a dream tae me, wi Bride the one real thing
in it. She told me that if anyone asked we were frae the verra north of
Northumbria. Oor way of talking and oor dress were no so verra different
frae theirs. And we were tae pass as brothers. I was tae be Harold and
she Edmund. We passed the border without trouble, and I was in England
for the third time in my life. I wondered if ever I would be seeing
~ez_ldquo~Bride told me tae sleep for a few
hours the gloaming of the day we entered England, while she kept watch.
She was tae sleep a little next. I woke after perhaps an hour, and in
the dim light saw that I was alone. What if she had gone on~ez_mdash~alone?
'Bride? Bride?' I saw nae sign of her. As I prepared tae go looking I
heard hoof-beats, and it flashed intae my mind that she had gone tae get
horses. I groaned, and looked around. There she was, leading twa
horses~ez_mdash~and by the looks of them a knight's, saddled and bridled.
~ez_ldquo~'What hae you done, lass?' I hissed
~ez_ldquo~Gone raiding.' She held out her cloak
tae me, which she had been carrying. In it were various vegetables.
'Some castle owner was having a feast, frae the looks of it, and these
horses were tied outside. Sae I untied them.'
~ez_ldquo~'But, Bride, you shouldna...'
~ez_ldquo~I canna be putting them back noo! Or
the food, for that matter. These people are oor enemies, and 'tis war
between us. What's wrong wi you?'
~ez_ldquo~I dinna ken if I was right or wrong
tae do so, but I mounted one of the horses. It was a fine gray one.
'These dinna look like peasant's horses!' I muttered. ~ez_ldquo~Then we'll say
we're carrying an important message,' she replied. ~ez_ldquo~Or be nobles
disguised, or some such tale. Oor French is guid enough. Besides, the
horses willna look sae well groomed after such a riding as we'll hae tae
give them. As for the saddles and bridles, we~ez_rsquo~ll just hae tae take the
risk. I~ez_rsquo~m nae guid at riding bareback.'
~ez_ldquo~After that we stopped a wee mair, tae
rest the horses, but we rode verra fast. She seemed inexhaustible. A few
times we were questioned, but never lang. And she, despite my qualms,
always found us something tae eat, by whatever means. I was willing
enough tae forage along oor way for wild foods though, and had guid
~ez_ldquo~Bride was for taking the maist direct
course possible. Sae we forded or swam water and rode through bogs. Once
in a while we passed through a town. Here we had tae ride slowly, for
the streets were packed. And everywhere sounds; the fish-sellers and
butchers and weavers crying their guids, a procession of monks chanting,
the noise of talk and haggling. And people blocking the road, shouting
tae each other about the latest news. Before we had gone verra far, the
shouted news was maistly about Sir William's capture. He was indeed
being taken tae London, we learned. And there were many dark wishes as
tae what would happen tae him there. Bride would bow her head and clutch
the reins of her black horse sae that the blood drained frae her
knuckles. I would keep up a bold face, but feel as if there were a
seastorm in my stomach. And through it a' was the feeling that surely I
would be waking up soon. This was a' sae improbable that it simply
couldna be real. But Bride was here tae, and she was real...I wished
strongly tae wake up, but I kenned in my heart 'twouldna happen.
~ez_ldquo~About half way on oor journey, we
passed through a town, and learned that only twa days before Sir William
and his captors had passed through. He was noo in the custody of Sir
John Segrave. In this town opinions were divided. Some people here were
as bitter as any, and others were saying that after a' he had done nae
mair than they would hae, had the Scots tried tae take ower England, and
that they couldna but admire his brave bearing. Sae there was much
disputing in the streets.
~ez_ldquo~Farther south we began asking the way
tae London. It seemed strange tae me, that Kenneth was asking his way
tae London. No one appeared tae suspect us though. Close tae London, we
began tae notice many, many Southrons, going tae London tae. Frae their
talk (for some of them would talk tae me without any encouragement on my
part) I learned that they were heading tae St. Bartholomew~ez_rsquo~s Fair. And
they kenned that Sir William would be in London soon, and many were
wanting tae ~ez_lsquo~see the show,~ez_rsquo~ as one man put it. I hated those people~ez_mdash~may
God forgive me, how I was hating them! But for Bride's sake I hid this.
~ez_ldquo~Then we saw London before us, on the
twenty-second of August, a Sunday. A' the people going, going...What I
remember maist about London is the smell. Scottish towns dinna smell
sweet, but they would be like heather compared tae London. At Bride's
suggesting, we sold the horses for a guid price. As she pointed out, we
had nae place tae keep the creatures in London, and we could buy new
ones wi the money if we needed them. Wherever we wandered, people were
talking about oor general, and about St. Bartholomew's fair, which was
tae commence the next day, the twenty-third of August. Sir John Segrave
was expected tae arrive any hour noo.
~ez_ldquo~Then, going on tae the gloaming, there
was much shouting, and we were swept along by the crowd until we reached
a certain street, where everybody stopped, and craned their necks
towards the north. Then I saw horsemen coming, and people were shouting
insults. I was far back in the crowd, but was taller than maist of the
people there. The horsemen drew closer, and among them was my general. I
was tae far back tae see well, but I would hae kenned him anywhere. I
could see as they rode past that he was sitting erect, staring straight
ahead, giving nae sign that he heard their shouts. I saw tae that as he
rode the shouting lessened, until only a few still were at it. A woman
began tae greet, and I was unreasonably angered wi her. The crowd moved
after, pushing us along. At last we wormed oor way out, learning frae
the talk along the way that he was tae be tried on the morrow. I found a
shed with wood, and we climbed intae the hidden space behind the stacked
timber. I looked at Bride, and saw the statue of a Valkyrie she had been
~ez_ldquo~'Bride,' I whispered dully. She looked
at me. 'Why maun it be?' she asked. I had nae answer. We could neither
of us sleep, sae we sat in silence through the hot night. Then faint
light straggled through the cracks between the boards of the shed, 'Twas
morning, tae soon.
~ez_ldquo~We had nothing tae eat, but neither of
us was hungry. I was feeling ill inside. My stomach has ever been my
enemy. We went out. A little later I found an old man strolling idly
about and asked him were the trial was tae be. He looked at me
strangely. 'Westminster Hall~ez_mdash~where else?' Westminster Hall...it seemed
tae me that my general had said something about the place. But I couldna
remember, just then.
~ez_ldquo~This part of my tale is hard tae be
telling, but I maun tell, sae it will no be forgotten. If we dinna
remember how dearly bought oor freedom is, we will lose it.
~ez_ldquo~We found oor way tae the hall easily,
for 'twas a large building, and what seemed like half England was going
there. We stood outside in the midst of a great crowd of Southrons, and
in the crush were verra alone. I had a twisting, jerking fear that Bride
would do something daft and be noticed. 'Twas nothing short of a miracle
that no one had stopped us so far.
~ez_ldquo~Then I saw the procession coming, on
foot and on horse, and the crowd slightly drawing back tae make way; the
rich clothing and Southron faces; Sir John Segrave, frowning slightly.
But a' this I scarcely gave mind tae at the time. Sir William was riding
in the center, and my first thought was 'What hae they been doing tae
him!' I saw as I couldna see the day before that he was paler and
gaunter than I had ever seen him, with a partially healed cut running
across his cheek, and his lips puffy and discolored as if frae a blow.
Weary, deathly weary, but unconquered. And in his face a peace I couldna
understand. Then I saw that he was chained, hands behind and feet
beneath the horse, and a great and bitter fury rose in me.
~ez_ldquo~I found that Bride had my hand, and
was pulling me through the crowd, and people were shoving and saying
things unrepeatable. In a little time we were in the hall, which was
verra full, and dark after the brightness of the sun outside. Sae many
people, a' talking or shouting. At the south end was a space surrounded
by armed Southrons, guards I supposed. And they had seated Sir William
on a bench there, and there also was Sir John Segrave, and four other
men. Bride was still pulling, almost dragging me, and so I found myself
no verra far frae the front of the crowd. I prayed that Bride would
realize that nothing we could do would be any guid, that she wouldna do
anything daft...Then one of the four men lifted something green and
leafy frae his lap~ez_mdash~a wreath of laurel leaves, symbol of victory~ez_mdash~and
handed it tae one of the guards. He turned, and wi mock solemnity knelt
and put the wreath on Sir William's head, a little lopsided. Then he
resumed his place in the line. ~ez_lsquo~Pity we havena a purple robe tae go with
it,~ez_rsquo~ said another guard reflectively, rubbing the back of his hand
across his nose.
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~We are no having a passion play!~ez_rsquo~
hissed one of the five men, glaring at the guard.
~ez_ldquo~My mind was turning, trying tae
remember something. A laurel wreath...a crown... and then I remembered.
My crowning, when the time has come, is tae be in Westminster Hall, and
no for reward of treason, but for refusing tae commit it. This was a
strange crowning, a strange reward~ez_mdash~and when I looked at him
unconquerable even noo, it flashed across my mind that ~ez_lsquo~twas a strange
victory tae, and the crown, whether as that of a king or a victor, was
~ez_ldquo~Another of the five men, a large man,
began tae speak in a bored voice, glancing often at a paper in his hand.
~ez_lsquo~William Wallace, a native of Scotland, taken captive for seditions,
homicides, depredations, fire-raising, and sundry other felonies; I
Peter Maluree, the king~ez_rsquo~s justice, charge you (inasmuch as the king has
made conquest of Scotland, as represented by John Balliol, the prelates,
earls, barons and his other enemies of the same country; and has by the
forfeiture of the said John, and by conquest, brought into submission
and subjugation a~ez_rsquo~ Scotsmen tae his royal power; and, as their king, has
publicly received the homages and fealties of the prelates, earls,
barons, and a vast number of other persons; and had caused his peace tae
be proclaimed through the whole land, and appointed guardians of the
country, also sheriffs, provosts, bailies, and others tae maintain
peace, and do justice) with, forgetful of your allegiance, seditiously
making insurrection against the same king~ez_hellip~~ez_rsquo~7
~ez_ldquo~At the end of the
lang list of accusations Maluree paused for an instant. And Sir William
rose frae his place, and said verra clearly, and loudly enough tae be
heard through the whole hall, as he would speak tae us before fighting,
'I hae never been a traitor tae the king of England! I am a Scot, owing
him nae fealty, and did a' in my power against him because he tried tae
reave Scotland's freedom.' The murmuring in the hall rose tae a roar,
and the crowd surged forward. Someone was breathing heavily at the back
of my neck.
~ez_ldquo~'Silence!' bellowed the Lord Chief
Justice. 'William, it is unjust and contrary tae the laws of England,
that any one sae outlawed as you are and put out of the pale of the
laws, and no afterwards restored tae the king's peace, should be
admitted tae defend his case or make answer!'7 But Sir William was
already done speaking, and had sat down again. Maluree bit his plump lip
in frustration. He took up another paper, clenching his fist on it until
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~William, of these charges we find you
guilty,~ez_rsquo~ he resumed. He had lost his indifferent manner, and noo was
speaking wi a venom that left nae doubt as tae what he thought of Sir
William daring tae answer the accusation. ~ez_lsquo~And we adjudge that for your
manifest sedition, plotting the king's death, perpetrating annulment of
his crown and dignity, and bearing banner against your liege lord~ez_mdash~~ez_rsquo~
then he gave the sentence, and I canna tell you of it noo. You will ken,
when you are older. It was sentence tae death worse than ~ez_lsquo~tis easy tae
believe a man could hae invented; that is enough tae say.
~ez_ldquo~Sir William showed nae fear. But a
painful shadow crossed his face once, and ~ez_lsquo~twas the same as I had seen
on the night when he had said that he should no see Scotland's freedom.
It doesna seem right tae me, that he didna see it. He gave a' for it a
man could give, and tae see Scotland free was the only earthly reward he
~ez_ldquo~Then the strange peace returned tae
him, and when the judge finished he looked upwards for a moment, and
smiled a little, as a man wha sees his hame after a lang journey. I
noticed that the hall was quiet, and wondered how lang it had been so.
~ez_ldquo~The chief justice ordered the guards
tae take the prisoner out. He was tae die that same day, by Edward's
orders. I heard this, and it was true, but I couldna believe it. I was
numb, still feeling like I was in a dream. And I kenned it would be
worse when I awoke~ez_hellip~ It was when Sir William and his guards were starting
towards the door that I
[7. The Book of Wallace, Volume 2 [Rev.
Charles Rogers, D.D., L.D.D.; printed for the Grampian Club; M~ez_rsquo~Farlane
and Erskine, St. James Square, Edinburgh 1889]]
realized Bride was no beside me. I looked
about, and saw nae sign of her. Then there was a stir in the crowd, and
I looked tae see Bride slip between the guards and kneel beside Sir
William. She was looking up at him and saying something. I spent a dazed
moment wondering if this was the moment in every nightmare when a man
finally wakes up. Then I began plunging towards her through the crowd.
What I thought I was going tae do I dinna ken. But I could make but slow
progress, and then a burly man grabbed my arm and asked where I was
bound in such a hurry...I heard an English voice exclaim, 'By St.
George! 'tis a woman!' And then a great and confused roar of voices. The
burly man still held on tae me; I think frae his smell he had drunk
mair than was guid for him. I fought back strongly, knocked him down,
and ducked frae the punch of a friend of his. It hit someone else, wha
hit back...but I was awa frae the spot by that time, struggling tae get
out of the crowd. I saw through a momentary gap in the crowd that Sir
William and the guards were leaving the hall. The crowd moved tae
follow. As the hall was clearing, I saw Bride. Sir John Segrave held
her fast by one arm, and a guard by the other. She was no struggling,
but was staring into Segrave's face with bitter and scornful defiance.
Beside her on the floor lay her hood torn frae top tae bottom. I had
just enough sense left tae ken 'twould do her nae guid if I were
captured. I looked about for some place where I could hide and be near
if need be. There was a rough ladder against the wall, leading up tae
the ceiling. Some repairman's, I thought. And Segrave's back was towards
it. In a moment I was at the top, attempting tae keep my balance. 'Twas
a poor hiding-place. If a Southron looked up~ez_hellip~
~ez_ldquo~Segrave told the guard he could go. 'I
should be a poor knight indeed if a maid could master me.' Then after
some time the hall was empty of a' but us three. As quick as thought
Bride's knife flashed in her hand as she stabbed at Segrave. But the
blade snapped~ez_mdash~he maun hae had a mail shirt~ez_mdash~clanged on the stone floor,
and lay gleaming.
~ez_ldquo~'Fierce, for a maid,' said the knight
coolly. 'Dinna you ken that your life is in my hands?'
~ez_ldquo~'I am no sae stupid as no tae see
that!' retorted Bride. She was fair, as I hae said, and verra fair when
angry. I think that Segrave saw this.
~ez_ldquo~'You are a Scot?'
~ez_ldquo~'A relative of the prisoner's,
~ez_ldquo~'One of Sir William Wallace's
soldiers.' Segrave started, and grasped her arm mair tightly.
~ez_ldquo~'But you are a maid. How came you tae
~ez_ldquo~'Your English murdered my family. Sae
I disguised and joined Sir William Wallace. But I am wearied of your
~ez_ldquo~'You are foolish tae talk thus.'
~ez_ldquo~'I dinna fear you! Only if you are tae
kill me, do it without sae many words!'
~ez_ldquo~'He stared at her. 'Go,' he said
harshly, dropping her arm. 'Go tae Scotland or the moon or anywhere!'
And wi that he left the hall. Once sure that he was gone, I tried tae
climb down, lost my balance and fell wi a crash. Bride turned, without
the slightest surprise, and helped me up. I had nothing broken.
~ez_ldquo~'I had tae say guid-bye, Kenneth,' she
said. 'I couldna hae not said guid-bye.' She swayed and I feared she was
for fainting, but she was not.
~ez_ldquo~We maun go.' I said. Outside the
shouting was fading intae the distance. I was thankful that I had no yet
had much time tae think. I maun no think, until I had Bride safe. She
picked up the hood. 'I hae nae way tae sew it,' she said, and let it
fall. Outside the streets were verra empty. On oor way tae the shed
where we had hidden before we met no one save a toothless old woman and
a beggar with a thin red dog. The shed was no the best place, but 'twas
the only one I could think of. But once we were still, ~ez_lsquo~twas no guid,
for I began tae think. And when I began tae think I became sick, and the
sickness left a bitter taste in my mouth. In my mind I kept seeing my
general, as the earnest, eager-faced lad he had been, as the great and
brave man he was; among the dark crags; leading us intae battle with a
shining fierceness; forgiving me Falkirk; refusing the crown; declaring
in the face of the power of England that he had never been a traitor.
But most of a' kept coming tae my mind that night before he set out for
Glasgow. And though I tried not tae, I kept thinking of what was
happening at that very time. And I grat like a bairn for a lang time,
and couldna be stopping.
~ez_ldquo~At a distance a great shout rose and I
flinched. I heard Bride move sharply. Then I saw, by the light that made
its way through the cracks of the building, that she stared, as if at
some great marvel, at the roof. I saw nothing there but a cobweb. And
she was trembling. 'Kenneth! Do you see them?' Even noo she remembered
that we maun speak quietly.
~ez_ldquo~The angels. The angels taking Sir
William tae heaven~ez_hellip~' Her face had softened and gentled.
~ez_ldquo~'Nae, I canna see.'
~ez_ldquo~There are glory and light such as can
be compared wi nothing on earth,' she said, as if tae herself. And she
knelt there, looking up wi wonder. Then the vision maun hae faded, and
she turned tae me and spoke mair gently than ever I had heard her
before. 'Dinna weep, Kenneth. He is at peace noo, where there is freedom
~ez_ldquo~'But what of Scotland, Bride?'
~ez_ldquo~'That work is left tae us, and the
others like us. We will a' carry on, and Scotland will be free. After
such a price as sae many hae paid, we canna fail.'
~ez_ldquo~That evening I took the money frae the
horses and bought woman's clothing for Bride. She couldna be going about
in her old clothes after the scene at the hall. And if she had man's
clothes someone might guess she was the same. And I bought a pair of
bony horses for verra little, and some food. And we set off for
Scotland. If anyone asked she was my sister, and we were frae
Northumbria. The journey back was no verra eventful. Once robbers
stopped us, but they found we had nothing worth stealing, and let us go.
Another time a woman near the border took us tae be some cousins she was
expecting, and we had some trouble convincing her otherwise. One night,
deep in woods, a day's journey frae the border, we stopped tae rest. I
lit a fire, skinned a rabbit I had shot wi Bride's bow, and put it tae
roast. Bride was verra quiet, watching the first stars come out. 'I hae
a song, Kenneth,' she said suddenly. 'About oor general.'
~ez_ldquo~'Sing then. We are safe enough here.'
~ez_ldquo~And she began tae hum a tune without
words. In the music was the sternness of the mountains, the white mist
and the call of the horn, the flash of sun on steel and the sweetness of
the heather. The words came and fitted tae the tune. I saw that she
indeed had the song-gift.
Light in darkness brighter burning...
~ez_ldquo~I would that I
could sing it for you, but you wouldna thank me tae try. I hae nae gift
of song. When she was done singing I said, 'Did that one come tae you--'
~ez_ldquo~'Like a wee bird tae its nest? Nae, I
dinna ken if that kind will come again. This came like an eagle tae one
of oor free mountains.' After that she was thoughtful, and I thought it
best tae leave her alone. On the next evening we crossed the border.
~ez_lsquo~Twas the eleventh of September, which seemed a cruel jest tae me.
~ez_ldquo~Everything was as it always is in
early September, which didna seem right, somehow. We went tae the Forest
first, for there most likely would be the others, if they were still
together. But there was nae sign of them. 'What noo?' I asked Bride.
'Wherever you think best,' she
answered. Sae I decided tae go hame, tae this village. And Bride came wi
me. She had nae place of her own tae go. Outside the village a dog came
racing tae meet us. It was Wulf. He greeted us, but then looked past us
and whined. ~ez_ldquo~He isna wi us, lad,' I said wi a choking in my throat. Wulf
seemed tae understand. He sat down and howled, howled as he had done
that day in August. It was then that Bride began tae greet.
~ez_ldquo~'Kenneth!' I looked tae see Malcolm
Dubh running towards me. He embraced me like a lang lost son. 'Tis a
wonder I'm still here tae tell of it. ~ez_ldquo~'Kenneth, lad, I thought never
tae see you again. Where hae you been? And what of Duncan? And wha's
this wi you?' Bride looked up, tears running down her face. 'Duncan!'
~ez_ldquo~'Nae,' said Bride, flushing a little,
and forcing her sobs tae cease. 'I called myself Duncan. But my name is
Bride.' She swiped her sleeve across her face, smearing the tears.
Malcolm Dubh looked at her blankly a moment. Then he comprehended.
~ez_ldquo~'Where hae you been?' he asked again.
~ez_ldquo~'London,' I said. Malcolm saw that I
was no wanting tae talk of it. Sae he fondled Wulf's head instead of
asking mair questions. 'Puir lad,' he said, tae the hound.
~ez_ldquo~I asked about how he came there, and
about the others. Longueville was wi Bruce, under an assumed name. He
was posing as a French kinsman. The others had gone back tae their hames,
tae await Bruce's rising. Sae far Edward had interfered with none of
them. Seemingly he thought we were no a threat noo, which was just where
he was mistaken.
~ez_ldquo~~ez_lsquo~I am Sir John Wallace's man noo,'
Malcolm said. 'Sae I came wi him, and Wulf came wi me. And I see you've
come hame tae.' He looked at me and he looked at Bride, and didna ask
where she was going. Instead he said that he would go and tell the laird
and Sir John of oor coming.
~ez_ldquo~What are you going tae do, Bride?' I
asked awkwardly when he had left. ~ez_ldquo~I will be fighting for Scotland under
Bruce. Will you be wi me?'
~ez_ldquo~'Nae. I hae the gift of song again,
and I think that is the part I am noo tae take. There always maun be the
makers of songs as well as the wielders of swords. Without them the
swordsmen are forgotten, and that for which they fight.'
~ez_ldquo~'Sae I will fight for Scotland's
freedom wi my sword~ez_mdash~'
~ez_ldquo~'And I wi my songs. It is guid tae ken
what path I am tae take.'
~ez_ldquo~'Maun oor paths become separate, dear
one?' I asked. Bride was safely back in Scotland, and I was free of my
oath tae treat her as my sister. She became verra still.
~ez_ldquo~'Will you hae me for your husband?' I
asked. It didna sound quite as I hoped it would. But that didna matter.
~ez_ldquo~'When Scotland is free~ez_mdash~I will,' she
~ez_ldquo~And that was the promise she made me,
Margaret. Margaret? The poor bairn's asleep. I shouldna hae gone on sae
lang.~ez_rdquo~ Kenneth rose, a little stiffly. He continued speaking; it must
have been to himself. ~ez_ldquo~She~ez_rsquo~ll be wanting the tale of my time wi the
Bruce tomorrow. He was a great king, a great leader. But those of us wha
had been Sir William~ez_rsquo~s men were his men for aye, whaever else we might
be following. ~ez_lsquo~Twas his fight we fought, as well as oor ain. And we won
oor Scotland~ez_rsquo~s freedom, though since then the Southrons hae tried again.
Stubborn folk they are; nigh as stubborn as we Scots.
~ez_ldquo~I mind before Bannockburn how I looked
up tae the place where we had stood and watched the Southrons cross the
brig, and for a moment I thought I saw my general standing there, just
had he had stood then. His words came in tae my mind, as clear as though
just spoken: Remember that it is the freedom of Scotland for which we
fight, and stand fast!
~ez_ldquo~But that was lang ago,~ez_rdquo~ said Kenneth,
with a half smile. Slowly and stiffly he walked to the fireplace. ~ez_ldquo~I am
tae auld noo tae fight. It is the ones such as my daughter's husband,
the bairn's father, wha maun carry on. He wields my sword noo. And after
him the next generation, and then the next...so it will be until we hae
made oor freedom sure as the hills, unshakeable as the mountains.~ez_rdquo~ He
raised his hand, shaking a little, towards the spear hanging above the
fireplace. It closed about the familiar smoothness of the shaft, and
steadied. So he stood for a moment. ~ez_ldquo~We Scots will stand fast,~ez_rdquo~ he said
at last, as if to someone only he could see. ~ez_ldquo~We will stand fast for
HISTORICAL CHARACTERS IN THIS BOOK
All of these people are
allegedly historical; with most there is no doubt, but a few are
uncertain. Some people in the book, such as the Templar killed in the
retreat from Falkirk, are real but unnamed. None of these except
Wallace~ez_rsquo~s uncle are included in this list.
Sir Alan Wallace
Sir Andrew Wallace
Sir William Wallace
The priest, Wallace~ez_rsquo~s uncle (it is uncertain to which side of the family
he actually belonged)
King Alexander III of Scots
The Maid of Norway, Margaret
King Edward I of England, ~ez_ldquo~Longshanks,~ez_rdquo~ ~ez_ldquo~The Hammer of the Scots~ez_rdquo~
King John Balliol ~ez_ldquo~Toom Tabard~ez_rdquo~
Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, later King of Scots
Sheriff of Lanark, Hazelrig
Sir John Graham
Sir William of Douglas
Sir Roger Kirkpatrick
Sir Alexander Scrymgeour
Sir Andrew de Moray
John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey
Hugh de Cressingham
Malcolm, Earl of Lennox
James, Steward of Scotland
Sir John of Mentieth
John, brother of the Steward
John Comyn, Earl of Buchan
Patrick, Earl of Dunbar
Gilbert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus
Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham
John Comyn of Badenoch, ~ez_ldquo~the Red~ez_rdquo~
William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews
King Philip IV of France, ~ez_ldquo~le Bel~ez_rdquo~
Sir Thomas de Longueville ~ez_ldquo~the Red Reaver~ez_rdquo~
Pope Boniface VIII
Sir John Segrave
Sir Simon Fraser
Prince Edward of England (later King Edward II)
Sir Ingram de Umfraville
Sir John de Soules
Ralph de Musselburgh
I wish to thank Amanda Johnston for
generously editing my story. She has my lasting gratitude.
to thank my excellent mother for supplying the title, and also for
bearing with a displaced 13th century Scot (with a sword) in