The Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter

Chapter 30.

The Barns of Ayr.

Morning was spreading in pale light over the heavens, and condensing with its cold breath the lurid smoke which still ascended in volumes from the burning ruins, when Wallace, turning round at the glad voice of Edwin, beheld the released nobles. This was the first time he had ever seen the Lords Dundaff and Ruthven; but several of the others he remembered having met at the fatal decision of the crown; and, while welcoming to his friendship those to whom his valor had given freedom, how great was his surprise to see, in the person of a prisoner suddenly brought before him, Sir John Monteith; the young chieftain whom he had parted with a few months ago at Douglas; and from whose fatal invitation to that castle he might date the ruin of his dearest happiness, and all the succeeding catastrophe!

“We found Sir John Monteith amongst the slain before the palace,” said Ker; “he, of the whole party, alone breathed; I knew him instantly. How he came there I know not; but I have brought him hither to explain it himself.” Ker withdrew, to finish the interment of the dead.

Monteith, still leaning on the arm of a soldier, grasped Wallace’s hand. “My brave friend!” cried he, “to owe my liberty to you is a twofold pleasure; for,” added he, in a lowered voice, “I see before me the man who is to verify the words of Baliol; and be not only the guardian, but the possessor of the treasure he committed to our care!”

Wallace, who had never thought on the coffer, since he knew it was under the protection of St. Fillan, shook his head. “A far different need do I seek, my friend!” said he; “to behold these happy countenances of my liberated countrymen is greater reward to me than would be the development of all the splendid mysteries which the head of Baliol could devise.”

“Ay!” cried Dundaff, who overheard this part of the conversation, “we invited the usurpation of a tyrant by the docility with which we submitted to his minion. Had we rejected Baliol, we had never been ridden by Edward. But the rowel has gored the flanks of us all! and who amongst us will not lay himself and fortune at the foot of him who plucks away the tyrant’s heel?”

“It all held our cause in the light that you do,” returned Wallace, “the blood which these Southrons have sown would rise up in ten thousand legions to overwhelm the murderers!”

“But how,” inquired he, turning to Monteith, “did you happen to be in Ayr at this period? and how, above all, amongst the slaughtered Southrons at the palace?”

Sir John Monteith readily replied: “My adverse fate accounts for all.” He then proceeded to inform Wallace, that on the very night in which they parted at Douglas, Sir Arthur Heselrigge was told the story of the box: and accordingly sent to have Monteith brought prisoner to Lanark. He lay in the dungeons of its citadel at the very time Wallace entered that town and destroyed the governor. Though the Scots did not pursue the advantage offered by the transient panic into which the retribution threw their enemies, care was immediately taken by the English lieutenant to prevent a repetition of the same disasters; and, in consequence, every suspected person was seized, and those already in confinement loaded with chains. Monteith being known as a friend of Wallace, was sent under a strong guard toward Stirling, there to stand his trial before Cressingham and the English Justiciary, Ormsby. “By a lucky chance,” said he, “I made my escape; but I was soon retaken by another party, and conveyed to Ayr, where the Lieutenant-governor Arnuf, discovering my talents for music, compelled me to sing at his entertainments.”

“For this purpose, he last night confined me in the banquetingroom at the palace, and thus, when the flames surrounded that building, I found myself exposed to die the death of a traitor, though then as much oppressed as any other Scot. Snatching up a sword, and striving to join my brave countrymen, the Southrons impeded my passage, and I fell under their arms.”

Happy to have rescued his old acquaintance from further indignities, Wallace committed him to Edwin to lead into the citadel. Then taking the colors of Edward from the ground (where the Southron officer had laid them), he gave them to Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, with orders to fill their former station on the citadel with the standard of Scotland. This action he considered as the seal of each victory; as the beacon which, seen from afar, would show the desolate Scots where to find a protector, and from what ground to start when courage should prompt them to assert their rights.

The standard was no sooner raised than the proud clarion of triumph was blown from every warlike instrument in the garrison and the Southron captain, placing himself at the head of his disarmed troops, under the escort of Murray, marched out of the castle. He announced his design to proceed immediately to Newcastle, and thence embark with his men to join their king at Flanders. Not more than two hundred followed their officer in this expedition, for not more were English; the rest, to nearly double that number, being, like the garrison of Dumbarton, Irish and Welsh, were glad to escape enforced servitude. Some parted off in divisions to return to their respective countries, while a few, whose energetic spirits preferred a life of warfare in the cause of a country struggling for freedom, before returning to submit to the oppressors of their own, enlisted under the banners of Wallace.

Some other necessary regulations being then made, he dismissed his gallant Scots, to find refreshment in the well-stored barracks of the dispersed Southrons, and retired himself to join his friends in the citadel.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59