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Stories by Abigail Leskey
Sir William's Man for Aye

Sir William’s Man for Aye
Abigail H. Leskey


     “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 story.

     “ 'Twas 1297, and I was but a lad of sixteen,” he said, and paused for a moment. “No more than eight years, and you’ll be that age. Aye, and better of looks than ever I was!” He chuckled.

     Margaret smiled sweetly, but she wanted a story, not compliments. “Please, tell me,” 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.

     “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.*

     “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. ‘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. ”

     “What did he look like?” asked Margaret.

     “ 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.

     “I mind thinking sometimes that he looked as if he saw more than most could see. My uncle thought ‘twas sure that he'd grow up tae be a priest.”


     “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 mentions John.]

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.

     “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. ‘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’ 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.

     “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!

     “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.

     “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.

     “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.

     “'I maun see Sir Alan Wallace,' he said.

     “'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.

     “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—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.

     “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.'

     “'What'll Sir Alan be saying tae this?” one of us asked.

     “'You hae his permission,' replied John. “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 smiled wryly.

     “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?” 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...

     “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—the one I’ve showed you sae often—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.

     “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.'

     “'Tis the night for it,' muttered my guid friend Donald, the slim lad beside me.”

     “How did you ken wha people were if 'twas dark?”

     “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.” Kenneth laughed. The picture they had made under that tree had come vividly before him.

     “Please, go on!” begged Margaret, as eagerly as if she had not already heard this story dozens of times.

      “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 were drenched.

     “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.

     “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. “I was hoping you would come!”

     “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.

     “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. ” 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.

     “Was it that one?” asked Margaret.

     “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 mended well.

     “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.

     “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 ‘twould be like. The no kenning how ‘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 there.

     “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 ‘twas no uncommon tae fight twa different groups of them in one day. ‘Twas no long before I grew accustomed tae the screech and clang of steel, and the sight of red blood.

     “A’ 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.

     “Partway we met wi Sir William of Douglas and his following, wha were a’ 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—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.

     “There were many other English in Scone though, and 'twas there I gained this scar.” Kenneth pointed to a long line high on his cheek. Margaret reached up to touch it gently.

     “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.

    “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’ be dead and condemned mair times by noo than I can be counting.

     “When I say that William led us, I’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’ 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.

     “Twas no long at a’ 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. ‘It’s the Wallace!’ one of them shrieked, in much the same voice he might hae cried, ‘It’s the Evil One!’

     “’Twas during this time that oor war cry became “For the freedom of Scotland!” and I’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’s family name: ‘Wallace! For Wallace!’ And I remember when, one evening, William decided tae change that. He mentioned that he had noticed what we were saying, and said, “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’ true Scots together. Oor goal is Scotland’s freedom. Fight in its name!” [1]

     “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’ 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, “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.” ]

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.

“'Twas wet marching. Such a wet year as that I havena seen since. At last we met wi de Moray’s army. They were men frae above the Forth, almost a’ 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 Graham...

     “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 “Toom Tabard”-- but never in my general's hearing.

     “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—William Wallace?' he gasped. We pointed out oor general, and Donald and I followed, wishing tae hear the man’s news. 'Many English—under—Surrey and Cressingham. Heading—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.'

     “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.

     “Were you afraid of the great English army?” asked Margaret.

     Kenneth grinned. “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.

     “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 —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.

     “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—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—that is, the first walked and the second tottered—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.

     “'Carry back, tae those wha sent you, this message,” Wallace said “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.' [2]

     “The little clerk turned and all but ran back tae the brig. The other followed mair slowly. I watched them cross.

     “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.

     “I remember that time of waiting for them tae cross like it was but yesterday.”

     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.  “It was a rarely sunny day,” he said in a low voice, remembering aloud. “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 see.

[2. The Scottish War of Independence: Its Antecedents and Effects, Volume 1. [William Burns; published 1874, James Maclehose, 61 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow.] ]

 “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.

   “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—we were a' shouting—‘Freedom! For the freedom of Scotland! Saorsa na h-Alba!’ 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’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.”

      “Oh!” breathed Margaret. Her blue eyes were almost unbelievably large.


     “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.

     “I saw that the brig was broken doon, and floating in the river were—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.”

     “What happened after the battle?”

     “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’ was in confusion.

     “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—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.

     “This ordering helped greatly, for noo everybody kenned exactly wha’s orders he should be obeying. The only problem was that some, the newly come men especially, didna always care tae obey orders.

     “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.

     “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—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.

     “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.

      “When we were back in Scotland, we learned that Sir Andrew de Moray had died, which grieved my general and a' of us much.

     “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.

      “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 useful.

     “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.     

    “They—the nobles and knights—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.' [3] 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 be…        

     “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.


     “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.

     “'Here, let me hae a look at that,' I said, squatting down beside him.

     “'No need of that,' he said shortly.

     “'Not a deep wound then?'

     “'I can bandage it myself.'

     “'I think you should be letting me help you. I've done it before.” This was true; I was by this time knowing well how tae bind a wound. I laid a hand on his tunic.

      “'No, you canna!” 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.

     “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!”

     “Swear by the cross of St Andrew never tae tell aught of this!” she ordered fiercely. I swore, without thinking if ‘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 stared.

     “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’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—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,

     “'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.”

     “'Why Duncan?' I could think of nothing else tae say.

     “‘My brother—was Duncan. I am doing what he would hae done, had he lived.” 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 hurt.

     “'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 time, Margaret?”

     “What?” she whispered.

     “Footsteps! I drew my knife—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.

     “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 brought horsemen.

     “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!” Kenneth grimaced. “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’ 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.

     “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. ‘The way this is looking, it’s glad I am tae hae a guid friend beside me!’ he said. ‘The Southrons look as thick over there as swarming bees.’      

     “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.

     “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.

     “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’s voice rose: ‘…Scotland’s nobles deserting, when the kingdom’s needing them most…’  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’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!”

     Kenneth bowed his head. In a moment he continued, “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.

     “We saw that the English were advancing. I remember still what my general said. 'My lords and brothers! [4] Remember that it is the freedom of Scotland for which we fight, and stand fast!'

     “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—or kneeling—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.'

     “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—and again—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 stood firm.  

[4.  The Book of Pluscarden Vol. II [Edited by Felix J. H. Skene; published 1880 William Paterson, Edinburgh]]

     “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.

     “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—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 heavily.

     “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.

     “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’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 claim this.]

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—thank God and Saint Mary Magdalene, wha's feast-day it was—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.

     “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—something about Angus and Dunbar and Buchan and a plot—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’ 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.

     “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.

     “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.

     “I remained sitting up and tried tae untangle a’ 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… it seemed as if they couldna a’ 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 ‘twas well wi him.

     “Sir John Graham was dead tae. He was one we could ill be sparing…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’ 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’ my fault…. 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.

     “A few hours later my general came tae see us, us wounded, I’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’ the burdens of a country were mair than any man should hae tae carry. 'Can you be forgiving me?' I said miserably.

     “'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’ 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.'

     “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.

     “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.


     “I recovered well, and was able tae help wi getting the Southrons back tae their ain place.

     “How did you do that?”

     “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!

     “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 twa.

     “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. 

     “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—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.

     “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.

     “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.

      “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.

     “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!

     “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 ‘twas the best he could do for Scotland at the moment.

     “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. “Why no the twa of you?” 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.

     “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 Buchan...

     “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—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.

     “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?”

     “A pirate!” squealed Margaret.

     “Aye. And I had hoped this voyage would keep Bride safe! Sixteen ships tae oor one he had, wi sails red as blood. ‘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 ‘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.

     “'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.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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 ’twould be no comfortable tae be stared at like that. Somehow he made me think that when he looked at someone he saw a’ the way through, tae whatever was behind them. Sir William looked back steadily into the king’s face. I thought ‘twas as if the twa were testing each other.

     “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.” 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’ the other pirates.

     “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.

     “'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 petitions...'

     “ 'You wish me tae fight the pirates, Your Majesty?' said Sir William.

     “'Ah!' said King Philip, arching his pale brows, ‘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.'

     “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.

     “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’ 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.

     “That wasna kindly, tae greet you nae better than that!”

     “Och, I was deserving it, young rascal that I was, slipping out of the window!

     “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 throne.

     “'Then your fight is ower?' exclaimed Sir Thomas de Longueville in dismay.

     “'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 ‘twas mair than that; he simply was loving the whole of chivalry—spurs, bright swords, the Song of Roland, and a' that.

     “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. 

     “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.

     “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.

     “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 ‘twas like—I’m hoping you never can—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 in longing.

     “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.

     “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.

     “'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—it took him nae short time tae decide—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 his sister...

     “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 mother was.

     “I would hae liked tae play wi Achaius. I am liking wee bairns greatly!” interjected Margaret.

     “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.

     “'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.

     “The guid weather didna hold. It became colder, and at last, no far frae being in sight of Scotland, an icy rain began falling.

     “Is your weather commonly like this?” asked Sir Thomas, laughing and pulling his cloak up around his face.

     “'Nae, mair often the rain isna freezing,' returned one of us.

     “Save Clotilde and the bairn, we had were a' on deck, despite the rain, a’ 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.

     “'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’ 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.

     “When at last we were standing on land, I felt a’ 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...

      “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 —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.


     “'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.

     “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 general's decisions.

      “'I'm not,' Sir William said. 'It's Scotland I'm wanting tae help.'

     “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 weel.

     “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’ 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 Guardian again.

     “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. 

     “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 me.

     “‘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.'

     “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.

     “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.

     “'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.

     “'We canna offer plain battle, that is sure,' said Sir Simon Fraser, wha was standing near. 'But that isna the only way tae fight’— he turned tae Sir William—'as you showed before and after Falkirk. That other way of fighting served us well in Edward's last invasion.'

       “After a little mair talk, Comyn somewhat grudgingly permitted Sir William tae resume command—under Comyn's orders, of course—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.

      “As I hae none of your kinsmen wi me, it is unlike tae happen,” 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.

     “‘As soon as is practical. The Southrons are no going tae wait for us.’

     “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.

     “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 unarmed peasants...

     “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. ‘Langshanks is meaning tae make an end of a' Scotland this time,' Bride said through tight lips. ‘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.

     “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, ‘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 fighting.      

     “‘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.

     “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’ these English about.

     “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.

     “She laughed shortly. 'Because I didna wish you killed—why else?'

     “I thought I might as well keep on, since I had begun. 'Is that why you are usually there when I am having hard fighting?'

     “'Of course.'

      “'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—protect me.

     “'Ye'll be getting yourself killed, Bride!' I had forgotten and used her real name. But none appeared tae notice.

     “'I hae told you, I dinna fear that. Do you think I havena noticed how you watch ower me? I'm fearing ‘tis you will be killed, and I dinna want that tae happen.'

     “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 tactless.

     “'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.

    “'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.'

      “'You try tae protect Sir William tae?'

      “'Aye. You also would be willing give your life for him, I'm thinking.

      “'Aye.' I said truthfully. “I think we a' would.'

      “'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...'

     “'Canna we be better of friends noo that you've told me a' this, Bride?' Tae my surprise she flushed slightly as she replied.

     “'Aye. It is strange—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.'

     “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.

      “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.

     “I remember tae well the evening when we came tae my village—this one—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.

     “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.

     “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’ about the place.    

      “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’ 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.

     “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.' 

     “'I would that I could help you wi the rebuilding,' I said awkwardly.

     “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,” 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!” He had risen and was looking defiantly towards the south. I stood also. 'I'm coming wi you,' he said.

     “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.

     “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—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.

     “And in time Prince Edward's army reached the Forth, and joined wi Langshanks’ 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.

     “Why?” asked Margaret.

     “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—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. 

     “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—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.

     “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.

     “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 again.' 

     “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 earls.

     “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.

     “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 location.

     “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.

     “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 was deaf.

     “'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. '—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.

     “'King Edward is victorious,” 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--'

     “'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. [5]”

     “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.

     “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. 

     “Langshanks spent the winter in Dunfermline; we spent it in the mountain country of the north, living like outlaws—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.

     “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...


     “Before spring came, Sir Simon Fraser found us. ‘I hae ill news,' said Sir Simon.

     “'What?' asked Sir William, wha had gone tae greet him.

     “'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’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.         

     “'Sae the Comyn turned traitor,’ Sir William said bitterly. ‘A fine thing for the Guardian of Scotland tae do—like a shepherd banding wi the wolves!'

     “'If I hae no greatly mistaken,” said Sir Simon, 'there will be few men of any rank wha willna follow his lead. Edward is undefeated, and the Guardian has submitted.'

     “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. 

     “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. 

     “'He was kenning we need every man or beast we can get,' said Bride simply. She had also risen at the clamor.

     “At last Wulf was quiet, and fell asleep beside my general—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.

     “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.

     “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 ‘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.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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. ‘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.

     “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.' 

     “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 us?

     “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.

     “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.'

     “'How many?'

     “'Perhaps twice as many as we are. They are mounted.'

     “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.

     “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—strange what one notices at such times. And then they were on us, as at Falkirk. But this time ‘twas no because I hadna told; that was something tae be glad of.

     “We held firm once—twice—a third time—a fourth—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.

“Like this?” Margaret tried to mimic Bride’s expression, jumping up and waving an imaginary sword about. Kenneth reflected that he would certainly be noseless if the sword were real.

“Aye, something like. But you had best sit down, lass, if I’m tae go on. Noo what—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’ 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)—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. 

     “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.

   “Sir William’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.

     “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.

     “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—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—what it was he didna say.

     “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.

     “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.'

     “'I was fearing the same for you. Are you hurt?'

     “'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.

     “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’. 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’d been helping sang.

     “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—and frae around the boulder, exhausted as we were, rose a cheer that maun hae frightened every animal within a mile. 

     “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.

     “”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—'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’ 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.

     “We camped there the night, and I was glad tae see that my wounded man slept. I was exhausted enough that I slept tae.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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 enduring.

     “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.

     “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. 

     “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,’ ‘tis little tae be wondered that men began deserting. In the morning a man would be gone…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.

     “ 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.

     “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 wondering.

     “'I am looking for Sir William Wallace, the commander,' he said. 'I hae been sent wi a message for him.'

     “'Another messenger?' said Sir Roger, wha was almost healed noo. 'Come then.'

     “Such comings always made me curious, sae I followed also. Sir William looked up frae the map he and Sir Simon were discussing.

     “'Another English messenger, Sir William,' said Kirkpatrick.

     “'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.

     “'I am. You hae been sent wi a message?'

     “'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.”

     “Sir William was about tae reply when Sir Simon said, 'Dinna refuse tae hastily.' My general looked at him wi surprise.

     “'What do you mean?'

     “'I can see nae way in which continuing the fight benefits Scotland. It has become hopeless.'

     “'Aye,' said Kirkpatrick. 'Sir Simon has said my thought.'

     “'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!'

     “'While I live, no; but does that make it less my duty tae defend it?'

     “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.    

     “'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:

“I tell you the truth, freedom is the finest of things;
never live under a servile yoke, my son.'

      “He turned tae the messenger, wha had stood by.  'And sae I tell you briefly that even if a’ 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. [6]'

     “'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 ear.

    “'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 the

[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, 1898]]

prophets, wha are given words and maun say them.

     “The messenger looked puzzled, as well he might. 'Your final answer is no, Sir?' he said after a moment.


     “Sir, that is a brave answer but no a wise one,” 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.'

     “'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.

     “I saw that he was speaking the truth, and I found myself saying tae him, 'I would that you werena English.'

     “'There are times when I wish the same myself,' he said gravely. He raised his hand in a courteous farewell, and rode awa'.

     “'Those offers willna be made again,' said Sir Simon.

     “'Then I'll no hae tae refuse them again,' replied my general.  “Would you hae accepted them, in my place?'

     “'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 has become.'

     “'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 about it.

     “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’s sake, and they left wi them. Sir John Wallace stayed. 'And you, Sir Thomas,’ Sir William asked Longueville, '--what will you do?'

     “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.

     “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.

     “'Brother Benedictus!' I gasped.

     “'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.'

     “'Can you fight?' asked Sir William simply.

     “'Better than you might think, Sir. I practiced often wi one of the other monks—speaking of the other monks, I should tell you that I didna ask my superior’s permission for coming.  I saw one of the Bishop’s servants on the way here, and he gave me this letter tae bring tae you.'

     “'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.

      “‘Sae 'tisna sunset for Scotland after a',” Malcolm Dubh said, testing his sword edge wi one scarred finger.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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. 

     “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.


   “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.

     “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've been unknowing for three days noo.'

     “'The battle—what happened?' I asked bewildered.

     “'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.”

     “'Wha won?'

     “'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.'

      “'Sir William? Malcolm Dubh? My uncle?  Brother Benedict?'

      “'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?'

     “'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.'

     “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.

     “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 another.

      “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.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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.'

     “'Trying tae gather men tae fight Edward,' said my uncle. 'If you wait, I'm expecting he will be back ere lang.'

      “This was so. Sir William appeared in about half an hour. 'Nae success,' he said briefly. 'They dinna—Malcolm!  How came you here?'

     “'On my horse. I hae a letter for you.'

     “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.  

      “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. ]

    “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.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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 ’twas also a guid one, for the loyalty that was grown among us.

      “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 sma'.

     “'Learn it by heart,' he said,'--it isna lang—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 “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.”

    “He had me repeat the message (I translated it for you, but ‘twas in French) until I knew every word of it.  ‘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.'

     I continued 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.

     “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.

     “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. ‘Tis a strange thing, and one that isna any use tae talk about. 

     “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’ fineness—‘twas fit for a knight—and my appearance would hae caused curiosity. But I had a knife. I traveled by hidden ways, by night. No one interfered wi me.

     “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 ‘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.

     “'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.

     “Bruce smiled. 'I see little sign of it.  But come wi me.'

     “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.

     “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, ‘Sir, I think that my general would say that the time is always ripe for right deeds.'

     “Bruce flushed slightly. 'You will hae been wi him a lang time?'


     “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 might be.

     “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 ‘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.

     “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—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.

     “'Why are you come?' he asked quietly and eagerly as soon as I was close.

     “'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.


     “'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.

     “'I was in that attack also,' I said.

     “'Then will you tell me of it, once you are done speaking wi Bishop Lamberton?'

     “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. 

     “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.

     “'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?'

     “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.

     “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—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, ‘and I will tae. I'll be leaving before dawn.' As I turned tae obey, he held me back for a moment. ‘The freedom will be worth it a’,’ he said, almost fiercely.

     I looked back once and saw him still standing, a dark shape against the fire, alone.

     “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.

     “'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?'

     “'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?' he asked.

     “'Aye,' said Sir John Wallace quickly.

      “'I hae ill news,' said the man. 'He was captured on the night of the third.” Bride clutched desperately at my sleeve. All around were questions, questions, John Wallace's face as white as salt, blue sky—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 ‘tis soon ower. But tae be captured by the English is tae be humiliated, made a show of and butchered—the Southrons ca’ it executed.

     “'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.'

     “'And you did nothing?' flashed Bride.

     “There were fifty of them, lad, and but one of me. I ken not where they went after that.'

     “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’s body. We found that some of the townsfolk had buried him, in holy ground.

     “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’ night if only he were here tae tell be tae do it.

    “We a’ 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 be real.

     “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.

     “'Bride,' I said, and then stopped, no kenning what words should follow.

     “''Tis guid you hae come,' she said in a strange, flat voice. 'I couldna go without saying guid-bye tae you.'

     “'Go? What are you talking of?'

     “'I am going tae London.'

     “'Bride, you've gone mad. You surely are no meaning it?'

     “'That is where they will take him, isna it?'

     “'Aye, but why are you going? What guid could you do?'

      “'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.

     “'Then I am going wi you.'


     “'Because I maun.'

     “'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--'


     “'Tis enemy country. And if you willna, I will!'

     “We left that same night as she had said, waiting until ‘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. ‘Twas tae daft of an idea.

     “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.

     “In the morning she traded her outfit for one less noticeable. But still she wore her hood.

       “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 Scotland again.    

     “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—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—and by the looks of them a knight's, saddled and bridled.

     “'What hae you done, lass?' I hissed angrily.

     “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.'

     “'But, Bride, you shouldna...'

      “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?'

     “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. “Then we'll say we're carrying an important message,' she replied. “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’ll just hae tae take the risk. I’m nae guid at riding bareback.'

     “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 success.

     “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.

     “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.

     “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’s Fair. And they kenned that Sir William would be in London soon, and many were wanting tae ‘see the show,’ as one man put it. I hated those people—may God forgive me, how I was hating them! But for Bride's sake I hid this.

     “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.

     “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 at first.

     “'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.

     “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—where else?' Westminster seemed tae me that my general had said something about the place. But I couldna remember, just then.

     “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.

     “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.

      “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.

     “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—a wreath of laurel leaves, symbol of victory—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. ‘Pity we havena a purple robe tae go with it,’ said another guard reflectively, rubbing the back of his hand across his nose.

     “‘We are no having a passion play!’ hissed one of the five men, glaring at the guard.

       “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—and when I looked at him unconquerable even noo, it flashed across my mind that ‘twas a strange victory tae, and the crown, whether as that of a king or a victor, was no unfitting.     

     “Another of the five men, a large man, began tae speak in a bored voice, glancing often at a paper in his hand. ‘William Wallace, a native of Scotland, taken captive for seditions, homicides, depredations, fire-raising, and sundry other felonies; I Peter Maluree, the king’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’ 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…’7

     “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.

     “'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 it crumpled.

     “‘William, of these charges we find you guilty,’ 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. ‘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—[7]’ 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 ‘tis easy tae believe a man could hae invented; that is enough tae say.

     “Sir William showed nae fear. But a painful shadow crossed his face once, and ‘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 asked.

     “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.

     “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… 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’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…

     “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—he maun hae had a mail shirt—clanged on the stone floor, and lay gleaming.

     “'Fierce, for a maid,' said the knight coolly. 'Dinna you ken that your life is in my hands?'

     “'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.

     “'You are a Scot?'

     “'I am.'

     “'A relative of the prisoner's, perhaps?'

     “'One of Sir William Wallace's soldiers.'  Segrave started, and grasped her arm mair tightly.

     “'But you are a maid. How came you tae be fighting?'

     “'Your English murdered my family. Sae I disguised and joined Sir William Wallace. But I am wearied of your questions!'

     “'You are foolish tae talk thus.'

     “'I dinna fear you! Only if you are tae kill me, do it without sae many words!'

     “'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.

     “'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.

     “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, ‘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.

     “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.

    “'See wha?'

     “The angels. The angels taking Sir William tae heaven…' Her face had softened and gentled.

     “'Nae, I canna see.'

     “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 for aye.'

     “'But what of Scotland, Bride?'

     “'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.'

     “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.'

     “'Sing then. We are safe enough here.'

     “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.

     'Tyrant's bane
     Freedom's flame
     Light in darkness brighter burning...

     “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--'

     “'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. ‘Twas the eleventh of September, which seemed a cruel jest tae me. 

     “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. “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.

     “'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. “'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!' Malcolm exclaimed.

     “'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.

     “'Where hae you been?' he asked again.

     “'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.

     “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.    

     “‘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.

     “What are you going tae do, Bride?' I asked awkwardly when he had left. “I will be fighting for Scotland under Bruce. Will you be wi me?'

     “'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.'

     “'Sae I will fight for Scotland's freedom wi my sword—'

     “'And I wi my songs. It is guid tae ken what path I am tae take.'

     “'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.

     “'Will you hae me for your husband?' I asked. It didna sound quite as I hoped it would. But that didna matter.

     “'When Scotland is free—I will,' she answered simply.

     “And that was the promise she made me, Margaret. Margaret? The poor bairn's asleep. I shouldna hae gone on sae lang.” Kenneth rose, a little stiffly. He continued speaking; it must have been to himself.  “She’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’s men were his men for aye, whaever else we might be following. ‘Twas his fight we fought, as well as oor ain.  And we won oor Scotland’s freedom, though since then the Southrons hae tried again. Stubborn folk they are; nigh as stubborn as we Scots.

    “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!

    “But that was lang ago,” said Kenneth, with a half smile. Slowly and stiffly he walked to the fireplace. “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 it will be until we hae made oor freedom sure as the hills, unshakeable as the mountains.” 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. “We Scots will stand fast,” he said at last, as if to someone only he could see. “We will stand fast for aye!”



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’s uncle are included in this list.

Sir Alan Wallace
Sir Andrew Wallace
Malcolm Wallace
Sir William Wallace
John Wallace
The priest, Wallace’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, “Longshanks,” “The Hammer of the Scots”
King John Balliol “Toom Tabard”
Marion Bradfute
Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, later King of Scots
Sheriff of Lanark, Hazelrig
Sir John Graham
Justiciar Ormesby
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, “the Red”
William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews
King Philip IV of France, “le Bel”
Sir Thomas de Longueville “the Red Reaver”
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.

I wish to thank my excellent mother for supplying the title, and also for bearing with a displaced 13th century Scot (with a sword) in her house. 

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