The Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter

Chapter 19.

Craignacoheilg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Before he could arrive,” returned Wallace, “I hope we shall be where Lord Bothwell’s reinforcements may reach us by water. Our present object must be the Earl of Mar. He is the first Scottish earl who has hazarded his estates and life for Scotland; and as her best friend, his liberation must be our first enterprise. In my circuit through two or three eastern counties, a promising increase has been made to our little army. The Frasers of Oliver Castle have given me two hundred men; and the brave Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, whom I met in West Lothian, has not only brought fifty stout Scots to my command, but, as hereditary standard-bearer of the kingdom, has come himself to carry the royal banner of Scotland to glory or oblivion.”

“To glory!” cried Murray, waving his sword; “O! not while a Scot survives, shall that blood-red lion19 again lick the dust!”

19 A lion gules, in a field or, is the arms of Scotland.-(1809.)

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

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

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

“Yes,” cried Wallace, turning paler; “a heavy one-on my heart.”

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace then informed his friends he purposed marching next morning by daybreak toward Dumbarton Castle. “When we make the attack” said he, “it must be in the night; for I propose seizing it by storm.”

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

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

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

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

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/porter/jane/scottish-chiefs/chapter19.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24