Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter IV. The Capture of Lanark

A low shout of enthusiasm rose from Wallace's followers, and they repeated his words as though it had been a vow: "Tonight we will take Lanark." The notes of a bugle rang through the air, and Archie could hear them repeated as by an echo by others far away in the woods.

The next two hours were spent in cooking and eating a meal; then the party on the ledge descended the narrow path, several of their number bearing torches. At a short distance from its foot some other torches were seen, and fifteen men were found gathered together.

In a few words the sad news of what had taken place at Lanark was related to them and the determination which had been arrived at, and then the whole party marched away to the west. Archie's heart beat with excitement as he felt himself engaged in one of the adventures which had so filled his thoughts and excited his admiration. An adventure, too, far surpassing in magnitude and importance any in which Wallace had hitherto been engaged.

It seemed almost like an act of madness for twenty-five men to attack a city garrisoned by over 500 English troops, defended by strong walls; but Archie never doubted for a moment that success would attend the enterprise, so implicit was his confidence in his leader. When at some little distance from the town they halted, and Wallace ordered a tree to be felled and lopped of its branches. It was some eight inches in diameter at the butt and thirty feet long. A rope had been brought, and this was now cut into lengths of some four feet. Wallace placed ten of his men on each side of the tree, and the cords being placed under it, it was lifted and carried along with them.

Before they started Wallace briefly gave them his orders, so that no word need be spoken when near the town. The band were, when they entered, to divide in three. Sir John Grahame, with a party, was to make for the dwelling of Sir Robert Thorne. Auchinleck, who had arrived with the party summoned by the bugle, was to arouse the town and attack any parties of soldiers in the street, while Wallace himself was to assault the house of Hazelrig. He bade Archie accompany him.

Knowing the town well Wallace led the party to the moat at a spot facing a sally port. They moved without a word being spoken. The men bearing the tree laid it noiselessly to the ground. Wallace himself sprang into the moat and swam across. The splash in the water attracted the attention of a sentry over the gate, who at once challenged. There was no answer, and the man again shouted, peering over the wall to endeavour to discover what had caused the splash. In a few vigorous strokes Wallace was across, hauled himself up to the sill of the door, and with his heavy battleaxe smote on the chains which held up the drawbridge. Two mighty blows and the chains yielded, and the drawbridge fell with a crash across the moat.

Instantly the men lifted the tree, and dashing across swung it like a battering ram against the door -- half a dozen blows, and the oak and iron yielded before it. The door was burst in and the party entered Lanark. The sentry on the wall had fled at once to arouse the garrison. Instantly the three leaders started to perform the tasks assigned to them. As yet the town lay in profound sleep, although near the gate windows were opening and heads were being put out to ascertain the cause of the din. As the Scots ran forward they shouted "Death to the English, death to the bloody Hazelrig!" The governor had long been odious for his cruelty and tyranny, and the murder of Marion Bradfute had that day roused the indignation of the people to the utmost. Not knowing how small was the force that had entered the town, but hoping only that deliverers had arrived, numbers of the burghers rose and armed themselves, and issued forth into the streets to aid their countrymen. Wallace soon arrived at the governor s house, and with a few blows with his axe broke in the door; then he and his followers rushed into the house, cutting down the frightened men as they started up with sudden alarm, until he met Sir John Hazelrig, who had snatched up his arms and hurried from his chamber.

"Villain!" Wallace exclaimed, seizing him by his throat; your time has come to make atonement for the murder of my wife."

Then dragging him into the street he called upon the burghers, who were running up, to witness the execution of their tyrant, and stepping back a pace smote off his head with his sword. Young Hazelrig was also killed, as were all soldiers found in the house. The alarm bells were ringing now, and in a few minutes the armed burghers swarmed in the street. As the English soldiers, as yet but scarce awake, and bewildered by this sudden attack, hurried from their houses, they were fallen upon and slain by Wallace and the townspeople. Some of those in the larger houses issuing forth together were able to cut their way through and to make their escape by the gates; many made for the walls, and dropping in the moat swam across and escaped; but two hundred and fifty of their number were left dead in the streets. The town, once cleared of the English, gave itself up to wild rejoicings; bonfires were lighted in the streets, the bells were rung, and the wives and daughters of the citizens issued out to join in their rejoicing and applaud their liberators.

Wallace held council at once with the chief burghers. Their talk was a grave one, for though rejoicing in the liberation of the city, they could not but perceive that the situation was a serious one. By the defeat and destruction of the garrison, and the slaying of the governor, the town would bring upon itself the terrible wrath of King Edward, and of what he was capable the murdered thousands at Berwick sufficiently attested. However, the die was cast and there was no drawing back, and the burghers undertook to put their town in a state of full defence, to furnish a contingent of men-at-arms to Wallace, and to raise a considerable sum of money to aid him in the carrying on of the war; while he on his part undertook to endeavour, as fast as possible, to prevent the English from concentrating their forces for a siege of the town, by so harassing their garrisons elsewhere that none would be able to spare troops for any general purposes.

Proclamations were immediately made out in the name of Wallace, and were sent off by mounted messengers throughout the country. In these he announced to the people of Scotland that he had raised the national banner and had commenced a war for the freeing of the country from the English, and that as a first step he had captured Lanark. He called upon all true Scotchmen to rally round him.

While the council was being held, the wives of the burghers had taken the body of Marion from the place where it had been cast, and where hitherto none had dared to touch it, and had prepared it for burial, placing it in a stone coffin, such as were in use in those days, upon a car which was covered with trappings of white and green boughs. Soon after daybreak a great procession was formed, and accompanied by all the matrons and maids of Lanark the body was conveyed to the church at Ellerslie, and there buried with the rites of the church. This sad duty ended, Wallace mounted his horse and rode for Cart Lane Craigs, which he had named as the rendezvous where all who loved Scotland and would follow him, were to assemble. Archie rode first to Sir Robert Gordon's. His uncle received him kindly.

"Ah! my boy," he said, "I feared that your wilful disposition would have its way. You have embarked young on a stormy course, and none can say where it will end. I myself have no hope that it can be successful. Did the English rule depend solely on the troops which garrison our towns and fortresses, I should believe that Wallace might possibly expel them; but this is as nothing. Edward can march a hundred and fifty thousand trained soldiers hither, and how will it be possible for any gathering of Scotchmen to resist these? However, you have chosen your course, and as it is too late to draw back now, I would not dispirit you. Take the best of my horses from the stable, and such arms and armour as you may choose from the walls. Here is a purse for your own private needs, and in this other are a hundred pounds, which I pray you hand to Sir William Wallace. Fighting never was in my way, and I am too old to begin now. Tell him, however, that my best wishes are with him. I have already sent word to all my tenants that they are free, if they choose, to follow his banner."

"You have plenty of pikes and swords in the armoury, uncle; weapons will be very useful; can I take some of them?"

"Certainly, Archie, as many as you like. But your aunt wants you to ride at once to Glen Cairn, to ask your mother to come over here and take up her abode till the stormy times are over. The news of last night's doings in Lanark will travel fast, and she will be terribly anxious. Besides, as the Kerrs are heart and soul with the English faction, like enough they will take the opportunity of the disturbed times, and of your being involved in the rising, to destroy the hold altogether, seeing that so long as it stands there it is a sort of symbol that their lordship over the lands is disputed."

"The very thing that I was going to ask you, uncle. My mother's position at Glen Cairn would always be on my mind. As to the Kerrs, let them burn the castle if they will. If the rising fail, and I am killed, the line will be extinct, and it matters little about our hold. If we succeed, then I shall regain my own, and shall turn the tables on the Kerrs, and will rebuild Glen Cairn twice as strong as before. And now can I take a cart to convey the arms?"

"Certainly, Archie; and may they be of service in the cause. You will, I suppose, conduct your mother hither?"

Archie replied that he should do so, and then at once made his preparations for the start. His uncle's armoury was well supplied, and Archie had no difficulty in suiting himself. For work like that which he would have to do he did not care to encumber himself with heavy armour, but chose a light but strong steel cap, with a curtain of mail falling so as to guard the neck and ears, leaving only the face exposed, and a shirt of the same material. It was of fine workmanship and of no great weight, and did not hamper his movements. He also chose some leg pieces for wearing when on horseback. He had already his father's sword, and needed only a light battleaxe and a dagger to complete his offensive equipment. Then he took down from the racks twenty swords and as many short pikes, and bonnets strengthened with iron hoops, which, although light, were sufficient to give much protection to the head. These were all placed in a light cart, and with one of his uncle's followers to drive, he took his seat in the cart, and started for Cart Lane Craigs.

Here he concealed the arms in a thicket, and then went up to speak to his leader.

"May I take ten men with me to Glen Cairn, Sir William? I am going to fetch my mother to reside with my uncle until the storm is over. He has sent you a hundred pounds towards the expenses of the struggle. I want the guard because it is possible that the Kerrs may be down there. I hear Sir John was carried away, three hours after the fight, in a litter; it was well for him that he was not in Lanark when we took it. But like enough this morning, if well enough to give orders, he may be sending down to Glen Cairn to see if I have returned, and may burn the hold over my mother's head."

"Certainly," Sir William replied. "Henceforth I will put twenty men under your special orders, but for today Sir John Grahame shall tell off some of his own party. Of course they will go well armed."

Half riding in the cart and half walking by turns, the party reached Glen Cairn late in the afternoon. The news of the fall of Lanark had already penetrated even to that quiet village, and there was great excitement as Archie and his party came in. One of Wallace's messengers had passed through, and many of the men were preparing to join him. Dame Forbes was at once proud and grieved when Archie told her of the share which he had had in the street fray at Lanark, and in the capture of the town. She was proud that her son should so distinguish himself, grieved that he should, at so young an age, have become committed to a movement of whose success she had but little hope. However, she could not blame him, as it seemed as if his course had been forced upon him. She agreed to start early the next morning.

It was well for Archie that he had brought a guard with him, for before he had been an hour in the hold a boy ran in from the village saying that a party of the Kerrs was close at hand, and would be there in a few minutes. Archie set his men at once to pile up a barricade of stones breast high at the outer gate, and took his position there with his men. He had scarcely completed his preparations when the trampling of horses was heard and a party of ten men, two of whom bore torches, headed by young Allan Kerr, rode up. They drew rein abruptly as they saw the barricade with the line of pikes behind it.

"What want you here, Allan Kerr?" Archie said.

"I came in search of you, little traitor," young Kerr replied angrily.

"Here I am," Archie said; "why don't you come and take me?"

Allan saw that the number of the defenders of the gate exceeded that of his own party, and there might, for aught he knew, be more within.

"I will take you tomorrow," he said.

"Tomorrow never comes," Archie replied with a laugh. "Your father thought to take me yesterday. How is the good knight? Not suffering, I trust, greatly either in body or temper?"

"You shall repent this, Archibald Forbes," Allan Kerr exclaimed furiously. "It will be my turn next time."

And turning his horse he rode off at full speed, attended by his followers.

"We had best start at once, Master Archie," Sandy Graham said: "it is eight miles to the Kerrs' hold, and when Allan Kerr returns there you may be sure they will call out their vassals and will be here betimes in the morning. Best get another cart from the village, for your men are weary and footsore, seeing that since yesterday even they have been marching without ceasing. Elspie will by this time have got supper ready. There was a row of ducks and chickens on the spit when I came away."

"That were best, Sandy. Do you see to their comforts, and aid my mother pack up such things as she most values, and I will go myself down to the village for the cart, for I wish to speak with some there."

Archie had no difficulty in engaging two carts, as he thought that one would be needed for his mother and what possessions she might take. Then he went from house to house and saw his old companions, and told them of his plans, which filled them with delight. Having done this he returned to the hold, hastily ate the supper which had been put aside for him, and then saw that his mother's chests, which contained all her possessions save a few articles of heavy furniture, were placed in one of the carts. A bed was then laid on its floor upon which she could sit comfortably. Elspie mounted with her. Archie, Sandy, and the men took their places in the other carts, and the party drove off. They had no fear of interruption, for the Kerrs, ignorant of the number who had arrived with Archie at Glen Cairn, would not venture to attack until they had gathered a considerable force, and would not be likely to set out till morning, and long before that time Dame Forbes would have arrived at her sister's.

The journey was indeed performed without incident, the escort leaving them when within two or three miles of Lanark, and making their way direct to the craigs, whither Archie, the moment he had seen his mother safely at Sir Robert Gordon's, returned. He did not mount the craig, but wrapping himself in his cloak lay down at its foot.

As soon as it was daylight he walked out a mile on the road towards Glen Cairn. He soon saw a party approaching in military order. They halted when they reached him. They were twenty in number, and were the lads of his band at Glen Cairn, ranging between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. They had originally been stronger, but some of the elders had already joined Wallace's followers.

"Now," Archie said, "I can explain matters farther than I did last night. I have procured arms for you all, and I hope that you will have opportunities of using them. But though some of you are old enough to join Wallace's band, there are others whom he might not deem fit to take part in such desperate enterprises. Therefore at first make but little show of your arms. I shall present you to Sir William, telling him that I have brought you hither to serve as messengers, and to enter towns held by the English and gather news, seeing that lads would be less suspected than men. But I propose farther, what I shall not tell him, that you shall form a sort of bodyguard to him. He takes not sufficient care of himself, and is ever getting into perils. I propose that without his knowing it, you shall be ever at hand when he goes into danger of this sort, and may thus prevent his falling into the hands of his enemies. Now, mind, lads, this is a great and honourable mission. You must be discreet as well as brave, and ready all of you to give your lives, if need be, for that of Scotland's champion. Your work as messengers and scouts will be arduous and wearisome. You must be quiet and well behaved -- remember that boys' tricks and play are out of place among men engaged in a desperate enterprise. Mingle not much with the others. Be active and prompt in obeying orders, and be assured that you will have opportunities of winning great honour and credit, and of having your full share of hard knocks. You will, as before, be divided into two companies, William Orr and Andrew Macpherson being your lieutenants in my absence. You will obey their orders as implicitly as mine. Cluny, you have, I suppose, brought, as I bade you last night, some of your sister's garments?"

"Yes, Sir Archie," the boy, who was fair and slight, said, with a smile on his face.

"That is right. I know you are as hearty and strong as the rest; but seeing that your face is the smoothest and softest of any, you will do best should we need one in disguise as a girl. And now come with me. I will show you where your arms are placed; but at present you must not take them. If I led you as an armed band to Wallace he might deem you too young. I must present you merely as lads whom I know to be faithful and trustworthy, and who are willing to act as messengers and scouts to his force."

So saying Archie led the band to the thicket where he had placed their arms, and the lads were pleased when they saw the pikes, swords, and head pieces. Then he led them up the craig to Wallace.

"Why, whom have you here?" Sir William exclaimed in surprise. "This will not do, Sir Archie. All lads are not like yourself, and were I to take such boys into my ranks I should have all the mothers in Scotland calling out against me."

"I have not brought them to join your ranks, Sir William, although many of them are stout fellows who might do good service at a pinch. I have brought them to act as messengers and scouts. They can carry orders whithersoever you may have occasion to send. They can act as scouts to warn you of the approach of an enemy; or if you need news of the state of any of the enemy's garrisons, they can go thither and enter without being suspected, when a man might be questioned and stopped. They are all sons of my father's vassals at Glen Cairn, and I can answer for their fidelity. I will take them specially under my own charge, and you will ever have a fleet and active messenger at hand when you desire to send an order."

"The idea is not a bad one," Sir William replied; "and in such a way a lad may well do the work of a man. Very well, Sir Archie, since you seem to have set your mind upon it I will not say nay. At any rate we can give the matter a trial, understanding that you take the charge of them and are responsible for them in all ways. Now, lads," he said turning, "you have heard that your lord, for he is your rightful lord, and will, if Scotland gains the day, be your real lord again, has answered for you. It is no boys' play in which you have taken service, for the English, if they conquer us, will show no further mercy to you than to others of my band. I understand then that you are all prepared, if need be, to die for Scotland. Is this so?"

"We are, sir," the lads exclaimed together.

"Then so be it," Sir William said. "Now, Sir Archie, do you fix a place for their encampment, and make such other arrangements as you may think fit. You will, of course, draw rations and other necessaries for them as regular members of the band."

Archie descended with his troop from the craigs, and chose a spot where they would be apart from the others. It was a small piece of ground cut off by the stream which wound at the foot of the craigs, so that to reach it it was necessary to wade knee deep through the water. This was no inconvenience to the lads, all of whom, as was common with their class at the time, were accustomed to go barefoot, although they sometimes wore a sort of sandal. Bushes were cut down, and arbours made capable of containing them. The spot was but a little distance from the foot of the path up the craigs, and any one descending the path could be seen from it.

Archie gave orders that one was always to be above in readiness to start instantly with a message; that a sentry was to be placed at the camp, who was to keep his eyes upon the path, and the moment the one on duty above was seen to leave, the next upon the list was to go up and take his place. None were to wander about the wood, but all were to remain in readiness for any duty which might be required. The two lieutenants were charged to drill them constantly at their exercises so as to accustom them to the weight and handle of their arms. Two were to be sent off every morning to the depot where the provisions were issued, to draw food for the whole for the day, and four were to be posted five miles away on the roads leading towards the craigs to give warning of the approach of any enemies. These were to be relieved every six hours. They were to be entirely unarmed, and none were to issue from the camp with arms except when specially ordered.

Having made these arrangements, and taking with him one of the band as the first on duty above, he rejoined Wallace at his post on the craigs.

Wallace's numbers now increased fast. On hearing of the fall of Lanark, and on the receipt of the proclamation calling upon all true Scotchmen to join him in his effort to deliver their country from its yoke, the people began to flock in in great numbers. Richard Wallace of Riccarton and Robert Boyd came in with such force as they could collect from Kyle and Cunningham, among whom were not less than 1000 horsemen. Sir John Grahame, Sir John of Tinto, and Auchinleck assembled about 3000 mounted troops and a large number of foot, many of whom, however, were imperfectly armed. Sir Ronald Crawford, Wallace's uncle, being so close to Ayr, could not openly join him, but secretly sent reinforcements and money. Many other gentlemen joined with their followers.

The news of the fall of Lanark and of the numbers who were flocking to join Wallace paralysed the commanders of the English garrisons, and for a time no steps were taken against him; but news of the rising was instantly sent to King Edward, who, furious at this fresh trouble in Scotland, which he had deemed finally conquered, instantly commenced preparations for another invasion. A body of troops was at once sent forward from England, and, being strengthened by bodies drawn from all the garrisons, assembled at Biggar. The army was commanded by the Earl of Kent. Heralds were sent to Wallace offering him not only pardon but an honourable post if he would submit, but warning him that if he refused this offer he should, when taken, be treated as a rebel and hung.

Wallace briefly refused submission, and said that he should be ready to give battle on the following morning.

At daybreak the army set forth, divided into three parts. Wallace, with Boyd and Auchinleck, commanded one; Sir John Grahame, with Wallace of Riccarton, the second; Sir Walter of Newbigging, with his son David and Sir John Clinto, the third. The cavalry were placed in front. The footmen, being imperfectly armed and disciplined, and therefore unable to withstand the first charge of the English, followed the cavalry.

Before marching forward Wallace called the commanders round him and charged them earnestly to restrain their men from plunder until the contest was decided, pointing out that many a battle had been lost owing to the propensity of those who gained the first advantage to scatter for plunder. Just as the Scotch were moving, a body of 300 horsemen, well armed and equipped, from Annandale and Eskdale, led by Halliday, Kirkpatrick, and Jardine, joined them; and with this accession of strength they marched forward confidently against the enemy.

G. A. Henty