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- In Freedom's Cause - 4/60 -


was with King Edward; but his wife, a noble and patriotic woman, surrendered the castle to the Scots. The Earl of Surrey, with a powerful army, sat down before it. The Scotch nobles and people marched in great numbers, but with little order and discipline, to raise the siege. They were met by Surrey, whose force, inured to arms, easily routed the Scotch gathering, no fewer than 10,000 being killed in the conflict and retreat. The English army was joined by 15,000 Welsh and 30,000 from Ireland, and marched through Scotland, the castles and towns opening their gates to Edward as he came, and the nobles, headed by James the Stewart, coming in and doing homage to him. Baliol was forced to appear in the churchyard of Strath-Cathro, near Montrose, arrayed in regal robes, and to resign his kingdom to the Bishop of Durham as Edward's representative, and to repeat the act a few days afterwards at Brechin in presence of the king himself. He was then, with his son, sent a prisoner to London, where they were confined in the Tower for several years. From Brechin Edward marched through the whole of Scotland, visiting all the principal towns. He had now dropped the title of Lord Paramount of Scotland, the country being considered as virtually part of England. Garrisons were placed in every stronghold in the country, and many new castles were raised to dominate the people. The public documents were all carried away to England, the great seal broken in pieces, and the stone of Scone - upon which, for five hundred years, every Scotch monarch had been crowned -- was carried away to Westminster, where it has ever since formed the seat of the thrones upon which English monarchs have been crowned.

The tide of war had not passed near Glen Cairn; but the excitement, as from time to time the news came of stirring events, was very great. The tidings of the massacre of Berwick filled all with consternation and grief. Some of the men quitted their homes and fought at Dunbar, and fully half of these never returned; but great as was the humiliation and grief at the reverses which had befallen the Scotch arms, the feeling was even deeper and more bitter at the readiness with which the whole of the Scotch nobles flocked in to make their peace with King Edward.

It seemed so incredible that Scotland, which had so long successfully resisted all invaders, should now tamely yield without a struggle, that the people could scarce believe it possible that their boasted freedom was gone, that the kingdom of Scotland was no more, and the country become a mere portion of England. Thus, while the nobles with their Norman blood and connections accepted the new state of things contentedly enough, well satisfied to have retained rank and land, a deep and sullen discontent reigned among the people; they had been betrayed rather than conquered, and were determined that some day there should be an uprising, and that Scotland would make a great effort yet for freedom. But for this a leader was needed, and until such a one appeared the people rested quiet and bided their time.

From time to time there came to Glen Cairn tales of the doings of that William Wallace who had, when the English first garrisoned the Scottish castles, while Edward was choosing between the competitors for her throne, killed young Selbye at Dundee, and had been outlawed for the deed. After that he went and resided with his uncle, Sir Ronald Crawford, and then with another uncle, Sir Richard Wallace of Riccarton. Here he gathered a party of young men, eager spirits like himself, and swore perpetual hostility to the English.

One day Wallace was fishing in the Irvine when Earl Percy, the governor of Ayr, rode past with a numerous train. Five of them remained behind and asked Wallace for the fish he had taken. He replied that they were welcome to half of them. Not satisfied with this, they seized the basket and prepared to carry it off. Wallace resisted, and one of them drew his sword. Wallace seized the staff of his net and struck his opponent's sword from his hand; this he snatched up and stood on guard, while the other four rushed upon him. Wallace smote the first so terrible a blow that his head was cloven from skull to collarbone; with the next blow he severed the right arm of another, and then disabled a third. The other two fled, and overtaking the earl, called on him for help; "for," they said, "three of our number who stayed behind with us to take some fish from the Scot who was fishing are killed or disabled."

"How many were your assailants?" asked the earl.

"But the man himself," they answered; "a desperate fellow whom we could not withstand."

"I have a brave company of followers!" the earl said with scorn. "You allow one Scot to overmatch five of you! I shall not return to seek for your adversary; for were I to find him I should respect him too much to do him harm.''

Fearing that after this adventure he could no longer remain in safety with his uncle, Wallace left him and took up his abode in Lag Lane Wood, where his friends joining him, they lived a wild life together, hunting game and making many expeditions through the country. On one occasion he entered Ayr in disguise; in the middle of a crowd he saw some English soldiers, who were boasting that they were superior to the Scots in strength and feats of arms. One of them, a strong fellow, was declaring that he could lift a greater weight than any two Scots. He carried a pole, with which he offered, for a groat, to let any Scotchman strike him on the back as hard as he pleased, saying that no Scotchman could strike hard enough to hurt him.

Wallace offered him three groats for a blow. The soldier eagerly accepted the money, and Wallace struck him so mighty a blow that his back was broken and he fell dead on the ground. His comrades drew their swords and rushed at Wallace, who slew two with the pole, and when it broke drew the long sword which was hidden in his garments, and cut his way through them.

On another occasion he again had a fracas with the English in Ayr, and after killing many was taken prisoner. Earl Percy was away, and his lieutenant did not venture to execute him until his return. A messenger was sent to the Earl, but returned with strict orders that nothing should be done to the prisoner until he came back. The bad diet and foul air of the dungeon suited him so ill, after his free life in the woods, that he fell ill, and was reduced to so weak a state that he lay like one dead -- the jailer indeed thought that he was so, and he was carried out to be cast into the prison burial ground, when a woman, who had been his nurse, begged his body. She had it carried to her house, and then discovered that life yet remained, and by great care and good nursing succeeded in restoring him. In order to prevent suspicion that he was still alive a fictitious funeral was performed. On recovering, Wallace had other frays with the English, all of which greatly increased his reputation throughout that part of the country, so that more adherents came to him, and his band began to be formidable. He gradually introduced an organization among those who were found to be friendly to the cause, and by bugle notes taken up and repeated from spot to spot orders could be despatched over a wide extent of country, by which the members of his band knew whether to assemble or disperse, to prepare to attack an enemy, or to retire to their fastnesses.

The first enterprise of real importance performed by the band was an attack by Wallace and fifty of his associates on a party of soldiers, 200 strong, conveying provisions from Carlisle to the garrison of Ayr. They were under the command of John Fenwick, the same officer who had been at the head of the troop by which Wallace's father had been killed. Fenwick left twenty of his men to defend the wagons, and with the rest rode forward against the Scots. A stone wall checked their progress, and the Scotch, taking advantage of the momentary confusion, made a furious charge upon them with their spears, cutting their way into the midst of them and making a great slaughter of men and horses. The English rode round and round them, but the Scots, defending themselves with spear and sword, stood so staunchly together that the English could not break through.

The battle was long and desperate, but Wallace killed Fenwick with his own hand, and after losing nigh a hundred of their number the English fled in confusion. The whole convoy fell into the hands of the victors, who became possessed of several wagons, 200 carriage horses, flour, wine, and other stores in great abundance; with these they retired into the forest of Clydesdale.

The fame of this exploit greatly increased the number of Wallace's followers. So formidable did the gathering become that convoys by land to Ayr were entirely interrupted, and Earl Percy held a council of the nobility at Glasgow, and consulted them as to what had best be done. Finally, Sir Ronald Crawford was summoned and told that unless he induced his nephew to desist from hostilities they should hold him responsible and waste his lands. Sir Ronald visited the band in Clydesdale forest, and rather than harm should come upon him, Wallace and his friends agreed to a truce for two months. Their plunder was stowed away in places of safety, and a portion of the band being left to guard it the rest dispersed to their homes.

Wallace returned to his uncle's, but was unable long to remain inactive, and taking fifteen followers he went with them in disguise to Ayr. Wallace, as usual, was not long before he got into a quarrel. An English fencing master, armed with sword and buckler, was in an open place in the city, challenging any one to encounter him. Several Scots tried their fortune and were defeated, and then seeing Wallace towering above the crowd he challenged him. Wallace at once accepted, and after guarding himself for some time, with a mighty sweep of his sword cleft through buckler, arm, headpiece, and skull. The English soldiers around at once attacked him; his friends rallied round him, and after hard fighting they made their way to the spot where they had left their horses and rode to Lag Lane Wood.

When Earl Percy heard that Wallace had been the leader in this fray, and found on inquiry that he had slain the sword player in fair fight after having been challenged by him, he refused to regard him as having broken the truce, for he said the soldiers had done wrong in attacking him. Earl Percy was himself a most gallant soldier, and the extraordinary personal prowess of Wallace excited in him the warmest admiration, and he would fain, if it had been possible, have attached him to the service of England.

As soon as the truce was over Wallace again attacked the English. For a time he abode with the Earl of Lennox, who was one of the few who had refused to take the oath of allegiance, and having recruited his force, he stormed the stronghold called the Peel of Gargunnock, near Stirling. Then he entered Perth, leaving his followers in Methven Wood, and hearing that an English reinforcement was upon the march, formed an ambush, fell upon them, and defeated them; and pressing hotly upon them entered so close on their heels into Kincleven Castle, that the garrison had no time to close the gate, and the place was captured. Great stores and booty were found here; these were carried to the woods, and the castle was burned to the ground, as that of Gargunnock had been, as Wallace's force was too small to enable him to hold these strongholds. Indignant at this enterprise so close to their walls the English moved out


In Freedom's Cause - 4/60

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