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The Scottish Chiefs
Chapter 19 - Craignacoheilg

SLEEP, the gentle sister of that awful power, which shrouds man in its cold bosom, and bears him in still repose to the blissful wakefulness of eternal life :—she, sweet restorer wraps him in her balmy embraces: and extracting from his wearied limbs the effects of every toil, safely relinquishes the refreshed slumberer at morn, to the new-born vigour that is her gift; to the gladsome breezes, which call us forth to labour and enjoyment.

Such was the rest of the youthful Murray, till the shrill notes of a hundred bugles piercing his ear, made him start. He listened; they sounded again. The morning had fully broke. He sprung from his couch, hurried on his armour and snatching up his lance and target, issued from the tower. Several women were flying past the gate. On seeing him they exclaimed ;—"The Lord Wallace is arrived.—His bugles have sounded—our husbands are returned !"

Murray followed their eager footsteps, and reached the edge of the rock just as the brave group were ascending. A stranger was also there, who from his extreme youth and elegance, he judged must be the young protector of his clansmen; but he forbore to address him, until they should be presented to each other by Wallace himself.

lt was indeed the same. On hearing the first blast of the horn, the youthful chieftain had hastened from his bed of heath, and buckling on his brigandine, rushed to the rock; but at sight of the noble figure which first gained the summit, the young hero fell back: an indescribable awe checked his steps; and he stood at a distance, while Kirkpatrick welcomed the chief, and introduced Lord Andrew Murray. Wallace received the latter with a glad smile; and taking him warmly by the hand, "Gallant Murray," said he, "with such assistance, I hope to reinstate your brave uncle in Bothwell castle; and soon to cut a passage, to even a mightier rescue! We must carry off Scotland from the tyrant’s arms; or"—added he in a graver tone, "we shall only rivet her chains the closer."

"I am but a poor auxiliary," returned Murray; "my troop is a scanty one, for it is of my own gathering. It is not my father’s nor my uncle’s strength, that I bring along with me. But there is one here," continued he, "who has preserved a party of men, sent by my cousin Lady Helen Mar, almost double my numbers."

At this reference to the youthful warrior, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick discerned him at a distance; and hastened towards him, while Murray briefly related to Wallace the extraordinary conduct of this unknown. On being told that the chief waited to receive him, the youth hastened forward with a trepidation he never had felt before; but it was a trepidation that did not subtract from his own worth: it was the timidity of a noble heart, which believed it approached one of the most perfect among mortals; and while its anxious pulse beat to emulate such merit, a generous consciousness of measureless inferiority, embarrassed him with a confusion so amiable, that Wallace, who perceived his extreme youth and emotion, opened his arms and embraced him. "Brave youth," cried he, "I trust that the power which blesses our cause, will enable me to return you with many a well-earned glory, to the bosom of your family !"

Edwin was encouraged by the frank address of a hero, whom he expected to have found reserved, and wrapped in the deep glooms of the fate which had roused him to he a thunderbolt of Heaven; but when he saw a benign, though pale countenance, hail him with smiles, he made a strong effort to shake off the awe with which the name, and the dignity of figure and mien of Wallace had oppressed him; and with a mantling blush he replied :—-"My family are worthy of your esteem; my father is brave: but my mother, fearing for me her favourite son, prevailed on him to put me into a monastery. Dreading the power of the English, even there she allowed none but the abbot to know who I was. And as he chose to hide my name; and I have burst front my concealment without her knowledge; till I do something worthy of that name, and deserving her pardon, permit me, noble Wallace, to follow your footsteps by the simple appellation of Edwin."

"Noble boy;" returned the chief, "your wish shall be respected. We urge you no further to reveal, what such innate bravery must shortly proclaim in the most honourable manner."

The whole of the troop having ascended; while their wives, children, and friends, were rejoicing in their embraces; Wallace asked some questions relative to Bothwell, and Murray briefly related the disasters which had happened there.

"My father," added he, "is still with the Lord of Lochawe; and thither I sent to request him to despatch to the Cartlane craigs all the followers he took with him into Argyleshire. But as things are, would it not be well to send a second messenger, to say that you have sought refuge in Glenfinlass?"

"Before he could arrive," returned Wallace, "I hope we shall be where Lord Bothwell’s reinforcements may reach us by water. Our present object must be the Earl of Mar. He is the first Scottish earl who has hazarded his estates and life for Scotland; and as her best friend, his liberation must be our first enterprise. In my circuit through two or three eastern counties, a promising increase has been made to our little army. The Frasers of Oliver castle, have given me two hundred men; and the brave Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, whom I met in West Lothian, has not only brought fifty stout Scots to my command; but, as hereditary standard-bearer [This Sir Alexander Scrymgeour was the descendant of the two re nowned knights of that name, who signalised themselves by similar acts of bravery in the reigns of Malcolm IlI. and Alexander I. Their name was originally Carron; and the reason of its change is thus recorded:-

During a rebellion of Malcolm IlI.’s northern subjects, that monarch was dangerously beset on the banks of the Spey. It was necessary he should cross the river, then very perilous in its current, and a strong body of the enemy lined the opposite shore to prevent his landing. The standard-bearer of the royal army, at sight of these dangers, made a halt. The king, in displeasure, snatched the standard from his hand, and gave it to Sir Alexander Canon, who immediately plunged into the river, and swimming to the other side performed prodigies of valour amongst the rebels. For this service Malcolm gave to him and his posterity the name of Scrymgeour (sharp fight), and proclaimed him his royal standard-bearer in the Scottish army. This post was made hereditary in the family, by Alexander I., to reward the son of the first of the name of Scrymgeeur, for an action of similar loyalty. Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, the descendant of these heroes, and the friend of Sir William Wallace, proved himself in every way worthy of his ancestors.] of the kingdom, has come himself, to carry the royal banner of Scotland to glory or oblivion."

"To glory !" cried Murray, waving his sword; "O! not while a Scot survives, shall that blood-red lion [A lion gules, in a field or, is the arias of Scotland.—(1809.)] again lick the dust!"

"No," cried Kirkpatrick, his eyes flashing fire; "rather may every Scot, and every Southron, fall in the struggle, and fill one grave! Let me," cried he, sternly grasping the hilt of his sword, and looking upwards; "let me, oh, Saviour of mankind, live but to see the Forth and the Clyde, so often reddened with our blood, dye the eastern and the western oceans, with the vital flood of these our foes; and when none is spared, then let me die in peace."

"The eyes of Wallace glanced on the young Edwin, who stood gazing on Kirkpatrick; and turning on the knight, with a powerful look of reprehension—"Check that prayer," cried he; "remember, my brave companion, what the Saviour of mankind was; and then think, whether he who offered life to all the world, will listen to so damning an invocation. If we would be blessed in the contest, we must be merciful."

"To whom ?" exclaimed Kirkpatrick; "to the robbers, who tear from us our lands; to the ruffians, who wrest from us our honours? But you are patient; you never received a blow !"

"Yes," cried Wallace, turning paler; "a heavy one,— on my heart."

"True," returned Kirkpatrick; "your wife fell under the steel of a Southron governor; and you slew him for it! You were revenged; your feelings were appeased."

"Not the death of fifty thousand governors," replied Wallace, "could appease my feelings. Revenge were insufficient to satisfy the yearnings of my soul." For a moment he covered his agitated features with his hand, and then proceeded; "I slew Heselrigge, because he was a monster, under whom the earth groaned. My sorrow, deep, deep as it was—was but one of many, which his rapacity, and his nephew’s licentiousness, had produced. Both fell beneath my arm; but I do not denounce the whole nation, without reserve !—When the sword of war is drawn, all who resist, must conquer or fall: but there are some noble English, who abhor the tyranny they are obliged to exercise over us; and when they declare such remorse, shall they not find mercy at our hands? Surely, if not for humanity, for policy’s sake, we ought to give quarter: for the exterminating sword, if not always victorious, incurs the ruin it threatens. I even hope, that by our righteous cause, and our clemency, we shall not only gather our own people to our legions, but turn the hearts of the poor Welsh, and the misled Irish, whom the usurper has forced into his armies; and so confront him with troops of his own levying. Many of the English were too just to share in the subjugation of the country they had sworn to befriend. And their less honourable countrymen, when they see Scotsmen no longer consenting to their own degradation, may take shame to themselves, for assisting to betray a confiding people."

"That may be;" returned Kirkpatrick; "but surely you would not rank Aymer de Valence, who lords it over Dumbarton; and Cressingham, who acts the tyrant in Stirling; you would not rank them amongst these conscientious English?"

"No:" replied Wallace; "the haughty oppression of the one, and the wanton cruelty of the other, have given Scotland too many wounds, for me to hold a shield before them; meet them, and I leave them to your sword."

"And by heavens!" cried Kirkpatrick, gnashing his teeth with the fury of a tiger, "they shall know its point!"

Wallace then informed his friends, he purposed marching next morning by day-break, towards Dumbarton castle :—"When we make the attack," said he, "it must be in the night; for I propose seizing it by storm?"

Murray and Kirkpatrick joyfully acquiesced. Edwin smiled an enraptured assent: and Wallace, with many a gracious look and speech, disengaged himself from the clinging embrace of the weaker part of the garrison; who, seeing in him the spring of their husbands’ might, and the guard of their own safety,- clung to him as to a presiding deity.

"You, my dear countrywomen," said he, "shall find a home for your aged parents, your children, and yourselves, with the venerable Sir John Scott of Loch Dome. You are to be conducted thither this evening; and there await in comfort, the happy return of your husbands; whom Providence now leads forth to be the champions of your country."

Filled with enthusiasm, the women uttered a shout of triumph; and embracing their husbands, declared they were ready to resign them wholly to Heaven, and Sir William Wallace.

Wallace left them with these tender relatives, from whom they were so soon to part; and retired with his chieftains to arrange the plan of his proposed attack. Delighted with the glory which seemed to wave him from the pinnacles of Dumbarton rock, Edwin listened in profound silence to all that was said; and then hastened to his quarters, to prepare his armour for the ensuing morning.

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