The sun rose as the funeral procession of the Earl of Mar moved from before the gates of the monastery at Falkirk. Lord Ruthven and Edwin mounted their horses. The maids of the two ladies led them forth toward the litters which were to convey them so long a journey. Lady Ruthven came first, and Wallace placed her tenderly in her carriage. The countess next appeared, clad in the deep weeds of widowhood. Her child followed in the arms of its nurse. At the sight of the innocent babe, whom he had so often seen pressed to the fond bosom of the father it was now following to his grace, tears rushed into the eyes of Wallace. Lady Mar hid the tumult of her feelings on the shoulder of her maid. He advanced to her respectfully, and handing her to her vehicle, urged her to cherish life for the sake of her child. She threw herself with increased agitation on her pillow, and Wallace, deeming the presence of her babe the surest comforter, laid it tenderly by her side. At that moment, before he had relinquished it, she bent her face upon his hands, and bathing them with tears, faintly murmured, “Oh! Wallace, remember me!” Lord Ruthven rode up to bid adieu to his friend, and the litters moved on. Wallace promised that both he and Edwin should hear of him in the course of a few days; and affectionately grasping the hand of the latter, bade him farewell.
Hear of him they should, but not see him; for it was his determination to set off that night for Durham, where, he was informed, Edward now lay, and, joined by his young queen, meant to sojourn till his wounds were healed. Believing that his presence in Scotland could no longer be serviceable, and would engender continual intestine divisions, Wallace did not hesitate in fixing his course. His first object was to fulfill his vow to Lord Mar. He thought it probable, that Helen might have been carried to the English court; and that in seeking her, he might also attempt an interview with young Bruce; hoping to learn how far he had succeeded in persuading his father to leave the vassalage of Edward, and once more dare resuming the specter of his ancestors.
To effect his plan without hinderance, on the disappearance of the funeral cavalcade, Wallace retired to his apartment to address a letter to Lord Ruthven. In this epistle he told the chief that he was going on an expedition which he hoped would prove beneficial to his country; but it was an enterprise of rashness, he would not make any one his companion; he therefore begged Lord Ruthven to teach his friends to consider with candor a flight they might otherwise deem unkind.
All the brother was in his letter to Edwin, conjuring him to prove his affection for his friend by quietly abiding at home till they should meet again in Scotland.
He wrote to Andrew Murray (now Lord Bothwell), addressing him as the first of his compatriots who had struck a blow for Scotland; and, as his dear friend and brother soldier, he confided to his care the valiant troop which had followed him from Lanark. “Tell them,” said he, “that in obeying you they still serve with me, they perform their duty to Scotland at home — I abroad; our aim is the same; and we shall meet again at the consummation of our labors.”
These letters he inclosed in one to Scrymgeour, with orders to dispatch two of them according to their directions; but that to Murray, Scrymgeour was himself to deliver at the head of the Lanark veterans.
At the approach of twilight Wallace quitted the monastery, leaving his packet with the porter, to present to Scrymgeour when he should arrive at his usual hour. As the chief meant to assume a border-minstrel’s garb, that he might travel the country unrecognized as its once adored regent, he took his way toward a large hollow oak in Tor Wood, where he had deposited his means of disguise. When arrive there he disarmed himself of all but his sword, dirk, and breastplate; he covered his tartan gambeson with a minstrel’s cassock, and staining his bright complexion with the juice of a nut, concealed his brighter locks beneath a close bonnet. Being thus equipped, he threw his harp over his shoulder; and having first, in that solitude, where no eye beheld, no ear heard but that of God, invoked a blessing on his enterprise, with a buoyant spirit — rejoicing in the power in whose light he moved — he went forth, and under the sweet serenity of a summer night pursued his way along the broom-clad hills of Muiravenside.
All lay in profound rest-not a human creature crossed his path till the carol of the lark summoned the husbandman to his toil, and spread the thymy hills and daisied pastures with herds and flocks. As the lowing of cattle descending to the water, and the bleating of sheep, hailing the morning beam, came on the breeze, mingled with the joyous voices of their herdsmen, calling to each other from afar — as all met the ear of Wallace — his conscious heart could not but whisper: “I have been the happy instrument to effect this! I have restored every man to his paternal fields! I have filled all these honest breasts with gladness!”
He stopped at a little moss-covered cabin on the burn-side, beneath Craig Castle in Mid–Lothian, and was hospitably entertained by its simple inhabitants. Wallace repaid their kindness with a few ballads, which he sung accompanied by his harp. As he gave the last notes of “King Arthur’s Death in Glory,” the worthy cotter raised his head from the spade on which he leaned, and asked whether he could not sing the glory of Scotland.
“Our renowned Wallace,” said he, “is worth King Arthur and all the stranger knights of his round table, for he not only conquers for us in war, but establishes us in happy peace. Who like him, of all our great captains, ever took such care of the poor as to give them, not only the bread which sustains temporal, but that which supports eternal life? Sing us then his praises, minstrel, and tarry with us days instead of hours.”
The wife, and the children who clung around their melodious visitant, joined in this request. Wallace rose with a saddened smile, and replied:
“I cannot do what you require; but I can yield you an opportunity to oblige Sir William Wallace. Will you take a letter from him, of which I am the bearer, to Lord Dundaf at Berwick? I have been seeking, what I have now found, a faithful Scot, with whom I could confide this trust. It is to reveal to a father’s heart the death of a son, for whom Scotland must mourn to her latest generations.”
The honest shepherd respectfully accepted this mission; and his wife, loading her guest’s scrip with her choicest fruits and cakes, accompanied him, followed by the children, to the bottom of the hill.
In this manner, sitting at the board of the lowly, and sleeping beneath the thatched roof, did Wallace pursue his way through Tweedale and Ettrick Forest, till he reached the Cheviots. From every lip he heard his own praises, heard them with redoubled satisfaction, for he could have no suspicion of their sincerity, as they were uttered without expectation of their ever reaching the regent’s ear.
It was the Sabbath day when he mounted the Cheviots. He stood on one of their summits, and leaning on his harp, contemplated the fertile dales he left behind. The gay villagers, in their best attires, were thronging to their churches; while the aged, too infirm for the walk, were sitting in the sun at their cottage doors, adoring the Almighty Benefactor in his sublimer temple of the universe. All spoke of security and happiness. “Thus I leave thee, beloved Scotland! And on revisiting these hills, may I still behold thy sons and daughters rejoicing in the heaven-bestowed peace of their land!”
Having descended into Northumberland, his well-replenished script was his provider; and when it was exhausted, he purchased food from the peasantry; he would not accept the hospitality of a country he had so lately trodden as an enemy. Here he heard his name mentioned with terror as well as admiration. While many related circumstances of misery to which the ravaging of their lands had reduced them, all concurred in praising the moderation with which the Scottish leader treated his conquests.
Late in the evening, he arrived on the banks of the river that surrounds the episcopal city of Durham. He crossed Framlinggate Bridge. His mistrel garb prevented his being stopped by the guard at the gate; but as he entered its porch, a horse that was going through started at his abrupt appearance. Its rider suddenly exclaimed, “Fool, thou dost not see Sir William Wallace!” Then turning to the disguised knight, “Harper,” cried he, “you frighten my steed; draw back till I pass.” Not displeased to find the terror him so great amongst the enemies of Scotland, that they even addressed their animals as sharers in the dread, Wallace stood out of the way, and saw the speaker to be a young Southron knight, who with difficulty kept his seat on the restive horse. Rearing and plunging, it would have thrown its rider, had not Wallace put forth his hand and seized the bridle. By his assistance, the animal was soothed; and the young lord thanking him for his service, told him that, as a reward, he would introduce him to play before the queen, who that day held a feast at the bishop’s palace. Wallace thought it probable he might see or hear of Lady Helen in this assembly, or find access to Bruce, and he gladly accepted the offer. The knight, who was Sir Piers Gaveston, ordering him to follow, turned his horse toward the city, and conducted Wallace through the gates of the citadel, to the palace within its walls.
On entering the banqueting-hall, he was placed by the knight in the musicians’ gallery, there to await his summons to her majesty. This entertainment being spread, and the room full of guests, the queen was led in by the haughty bishop of the see, the king being too ill of his wounds to allow his joining so large a company. The beauty of the lovely sister of Philip le Bel seemed to fill the gaze and hearts of all bystanders, and none appeared to remember that Edward was absent. Wallace hardly glanced on her youthful charms; his eyes roamed from side to side in quest of a fairer, a dearer object — the captive daughter of his dead friend! She was not there; neither was De Valence; but Buchan, Athol, and Soulis, were near the royal Margaret; in all the pomp of feudal grandeur. In vain waived the trophied banners over their heads; they sat sullen and revengeful, for the defeat on the Carron had obscured the treacherous victory of Falkirk; and instead of having presented Edward to his young queen as the conqueror of Scotland; she had found him, and them fugitives in the castle of Durham!
Immediately on the royal band ceasing to play, Gaveston pressed toward the queen, and told her he had presumed to introduce a traveling minstrel into the gallery; hoping that she would order him to perform for her amusement, as he could sing legends from the descent of the Romans to the victories of her royal Edward. With all her age’s eagerness in quest of novelties, she commanded him to be brought to her.
Gaveston having presented him, Wallace bowed with the respect due to her sex and dignity, and to the esteem in which he held the character of her royal brother. Margaret desired him to place his harp before her, and begin to sing. As he knelt on one knee, and struck its sounding chords, she stopped him by the inquiry, of whence he came?
“From the north country,” was his reply.
“Were you ever in Scotland?” asked she.
The young lords crowded round to hear this dialogue between majesty and lowliness. She smiled, and turned toward them.
“Do not accuse me of disloyalty, but I have a curiosity to ask another question.”
“Nothing your majesty wishes to know,” said Bishop Beck, “can be amiss.”
“Then tell me,” cried she —“for you wandering minstrels see all great people, good or bad, else how could you make songs about them! — did you ever see Sir William Wallace in your travels?”
“Pray tell me what he is like! you probably will be unprejudiced, and that is what I can hardly expect in this case from any of these brave lords.”
Wishing to avoid further questioning on this subject, Wallace replied:
“I have never seen him so distinctly as to be enabled to prove any right to your majesty’s opinion of my judgment.”
“Cannot you sing me some ballad about him?” inquired she, laughing; “and if you are a little poetical in your praise, I can excuse you; for my royal brother thinks this bold Scot would have shone brightly in a fairer cause.”
“My songs are dedicated to glory set in the grave,” returned Wallace, “therefore Sir William Wallace’s faults or virtues will not be sung by me.”
“Then he is a very young man, I suppose? for you are not old, and yet you speak of not surviving him. I was in hopes,” cried she, addressing Beck, “that my lord the king would have brought this Wallace to have supped with me here; but for once rebellion overcame its master.”
Beck made some reply which Wallace did not hear, and the queen again turning to him resumed:
“Minstrel, we French ladies are very fond of a good mien; and I shall be a little reconciled to your northern realms if you tell me that Sir William Wallace is anything like as handsome as some of the gay knights by whom you see me surrounded.”
Wallace smiled, and replied:
“The comeliness of Sir William Wallace lies in a strong arm and a feeling heart; and if these be charms in the eyes of female goodness, he may hope to be not quite an object of abhorrence to the sister of Philip le Bel!”
The minstrel bowed as he spoke, and the young queen laughing again, said:
“I wish not to come within the influence of either. But sing me some Scottish legend, and I will promise wherever I see the knight to treat him with all courtesy due to valor.”
Wallace again struck the chords of his harp; and with a voice whose full and melodious tones rolled round the vast dome of the hall, he sung the triumphs of Beuther.44 The queen fixed her eyes upon him; and when he ended, she turned and whispered Gavestton:
“If the voice of this man had been Wallace’s trumpet, I should not now wonder at the discomfiture of England. He almost tempted me from my allegiance, as the warlike animation of his notes seemed to charge the flying Southrons.”
44 In commemoration of the victory which this ancient Scottish prince obtained over the Britons before the Christian era, the field of conquest has ever since been called Rutherglen.
Speaking, she rose, and presenting a jeweled ring to the mistrel, left the apartment.
The lords crowded out after her, and the musicians coming down from the gallery, seated themselves with much rude jollity to regale on the remnants of the feast. Wallace, who had discovered the senachie of Brue by the escutcheon of Annandale suspended at his neck, gladly saw him approach. He came to invite the stranger minstrel to partake of their fare. Wallace did not appear to decline it, and as the court bard seemed rather devoted to the pleasures of wine, he found it not difficult to draw from him what he wanted to know. He learned that young Bruce was still in the castle under arrest, “and,” added the senachie, “I shall feel no little mortification in being obliged, in the course of half an hour, to relinquish these festivities for the gloomy duties of his apartment.”
This was precisely the point to which Wallace had wished to lead him; and pleading disrelish of wine, he offered to supply his place in the earl’s chamber. The half-intoxicated bard accepted the proposition with eagerness; and as the shades of nigh had long closed in, he conducted his illustrious substitute to the large round tower of the castle, informing him as they went along, that he must continue playing in a recess adjoining Bruce’s room till the last vesper bell from the abbey in the neighborhood should give the signal for his laying aside the harp. At that time the earl would be fallen asleep, and he might then lie down on a pallet he would find in the recess.
All this Wallace promised punctually to obey; and being conducted by the senachie up a spiral staircase, was left in the little anteroom. The chief drew the cowl of his minstrel cloak over his face and set his harp before him in order to play. He could see through its strings that a group of knights were in earnest conversation at the further end of the apartment; but they spoke so low he could not distinguish what was said. One of the party turned round, and the light of a suspended lamp discovered him to be the brave Earl Gloucester, whom Wallace had taken, and released at Berwick. The same ray showed another to be Percy, Earl of Northumberland. Wallace found the strangeness of his situation. He, the conqueror of Edward, to have been singing as a mendicant in his halls; and having given laws to the two great men before him, he now sat in their view unobserved and unfeared! Their figures concealed that of Bruce, but at last when all rose together, he heard Gloucester say, in rather an elevated voice, “Keep up your spirits. This envy of your base countrymen must recoil upon themselves. It cannot be long before King Edward discovers the motives of their accusations, and his noble nature will acquit you accordingly.”
“My acquittal,” replied Bruce, in a firm tone, “cannot restore what Edward’s injustice has rifled from me. I abide by the test of my own actions, and by it will open the door of my freedom. Your king may depend on it,” added he, with a sarcastic smile, “that I am not a man to be influenced against the right. Where I owe duty I will pay it to the uttermost farthing.”
Not apprehending the true meaning of this speech, Percy immediately answered, “I believe you, and so must all that world; for did you not give brave proofs of it that fearful night on the Carron, in bearing arms against the triumphant Wallace?”
“I did indeed give proofs of it,” returned Bruce, “which I hope the world will one day know, by bearing arms against the usurper of my country’s rights! and in defiance of injustice and of treason, before men and angels I swear,” cried he, “to perform my duty to the end-to retrieve, to honor the insulted, the degraded name of Bruce!”
The two earls fell back before the vehement action which accompanied this burst from the soul of Bruce; and Wallace caught a glimpse of his youthful form, which stood pre-eminent in patriotic virtue between the Southron lords: his fine countenance glowed, and his brave spirit seemed to emanate in light from every part of his body. “My prince and brother!” exclaimed Wallace to himself, ready to rush forward and throw himself at his feet, or into his arms.
Gloucester, as little as Northumberland, comprehending Bruce’s ambiguous declaration, replied, “Let not your heart, my brave friend, burn too hotly against the king for this arrest. He will be the more urgent to obliterate by kindness this injustice when he understands the aims of the Cummins. I have myself felt his misplaced wrath; and who now is more favored by Edward than Ralph de Monthermer? My case will be yours. Good night, Bruce. May propitious dreams repeat the augury of your true friends!” Percy shook hands with the young earl, and the two English lords left the room.
Wallace could now take a more leisurely survey of Bruce. He no longer wore gay embroidered hacqueton; his tunic was black velvet, and all the rest of his garments accorded with the same mourning hue. Soon after the lords had quitted him, the buoyant elasticity of his figure, which before seemed ready to rise from the earth, so was his soul elevated by his sublime resolves, gave way to melancholy retrospections, and he threw himself into a chair with his hands clasped upon his knee and his eyes fixed in musing gaze upon the floor. It was now that Wallace touched the strings of his harp. “The Death of Cathullin” wailed from the sounding notes; but Bruce heard as though he heard them not; they sooth his mood without his perceiving what it was that calmed, yet deepened, the saddening thoughts which possessed him. His posture remained the same; and sigh after sigh gave the only response to the strains of the bard.
Wallace grew impatient for the chimes of that vesper bell which, by assuring Bruce’s attendants that he was going to rest, would secure from interruption the conference he meditated. Two servants entered. Bruce, scarcely looking up, bade them withdraw; he should not need their attendance; he did not know when he should go to bed; and he desired to be no further disturbed. The men obeyed; and Wallace, changing the melancholy strain of his harp, struck the chords to the proud triumph he had played in the hall. Not one note of either ballad had he yet sung to Bruce; but when he came to the passage in the latter appropriated to these lines —
“Arise, glory of Albin, from thy cloud, And shine upon thy own!”
he could not forbear giving the words voice. Bruce started from his seat. He looked toward the minstrel — he walked the room in great disorder. The pealing sounds of the harp, and his own mental confusion, prevented his distinguishing that it was not the voice of his senachie. The words alone he heard; and they seemed a call which his heart panted to obey. The hand of Wallace paused upon the instrument. He looked around to see that observation was indeed at a distance. Not that he dreaded harm to himself, for his magnanimous mind, courageous from infancy, by a natural instinct had never known personal fear; but anxious not to precipitate Bruce into useless danger, he first satisfied himself that all was safe, and then, as the young earl sat in a paroxysm of racking reflections (for they brought self-blame, or rather a blame on his father, which pierced him to the heart), Wallace slowly advanced from the recess. The agitated Bruce, accidentally raising his head, beheld a man in a minstrel’s garb, much to tall to be his senachie, approaching him with a caution which he thought portended treachery. He sprung to his feet, and caught his sword from the table; but, in that moment, Wallace threw off his cowl. Bruce stood gazing on him, stiffened with astonishment. Wallace, in a low voice, exclaimed, “My prince! do you not know me?” Bruce, without speaking, threw his arms about his neck. He was silent, as he hung on him, but his tears flowed; he had much to say, but excess of emotion rendered it unutterable. As Wallace returned the fond embrace of friendship, he gently said, “How is it that I not only see you a close prisoner, but in these weeds?” Bruce at last forced himself to articulate: “I have known misery, in all its forms, since we parted; but I have not power to name even my grief of griefs, while trembling at the peril to which you have exposed yourself by seeking me! The vanquisher of Edward, the man who snatched Scotland from his grasp, were he known to be within these walls, would be a prize for which the boiling revenge of the tyrant would give half his kingdom! Think, then, my friend, how I shudder at this daring. I am surrounded by spies, and should you be discovered, Robert Bruce will then have the curses of his country added to the judgments which already have fallen on his head.” As he spoke, they sat down together, and he continued: “Before I answer your questions, tell me what immediate cause could bring you to seek the alien Bruce in prison, and by what stratagem you came in this disguise into my apartment? Tell me the last, that I may judge, by the means, of your present safety!”
Wallace briefly related the events which had sent him from Scotland, his reencounter with Piers Gaveston, and his arrangement with the senachie. To the first part of the narrative, Bruce listened with indignation. “I knew,” exclaimed he, “from the boastings of Athol and Buchan, that they had left in Scotland some dregs of heir own refractory spirits; but I could not have guessed that envy had so obliterated gratitude in the hearts of my countrymen. The wolves have now driven the shepherd from the fold,” cried he, “and the flock will soon be devoured! Fatal was the hour for Scotland, and your friend, when you yielded to the voice of faction, and relinquished the power which would have finally given peace to the nation!”
Wallace recapitulated his reasons for having refrained from forcing the obedience of the young Lord Badenoch and his adherents; for abdicating a dignity he could no longer maintain without shedding the blood of the misguided men who opposed him. Bruce acknowledged the wisdom of this conduct, but could not restrain his animadversions on the characters of the Cummins. He told Wallace that he had met the two sons of the late Lord Badenoch in Guienne; that James, who now pretended such resentment of his father’s death, had ever been a rebellious son. John, who yet remained in France, appeared of a less violent temper; “but,” added the prince, “I have been taught by one who will never counsel me more, that all the Cummins, male and female, would be ready at any time to sacrifice earth and heaven to their ambition. It is to Buchan and Athol that I owe my prolonged confinement, and to them I may date the premature death of my father.”
The start of Wallace declared his shock at this information. “How?” exclaimed he, “The Earl of Carrick dead? Fell, fell assassins of their country!” The swelling emotions of his soul would not allow him to proceed, and Bruce resumed: “It is for him I wear these sable garments — poor emblems of the mournings of my soul, mournings, not so much for his loss (and that is grievous as ever son bore), but because he lived not to let the world know what he really was; he lived not to bring into light his long-obscured honor! There, there, Wallace, is the bitterness of this cup to me!”
“But can you not sweeten it, my dear prince,” cried Wallace, “by retrieving all that he was cut off from redeeming? To open the way to you I come.”
“And I will enter where you point,” returned Bruce; “but heavy is my woe that, knowing the same spirit was in my father’s bosom, he should be torn from the opportunity to make it manifest. Oh, Wallace! that he should be made to lie down in a dishonored grave! Had he lived, my friend, he would have brightened that name which rumor has sullied, and I should have doubly gloried in wearing the name he had rendered so worthy of being coupled with the kingly title. Noble was he in soul; but he fell amidst a race of men whose art was equal to their venality, and he became their dupe. Betrayed by friendship, he sunk into the snare; for he had no dishonor in his own breast to warn him of what might be the villainy of others. He believed the cajoling speeches of Edward, who, on the first offense of Baliol, had promised to place my father on the throne. Month after month passed away, and the engagement was unperformed. The disturbance on the Continent seemed to his confiding nature a sufficient excuse for these various delays; and he waited in quiet expectation till your name, my friend, rose glorious in Scotland. My father and myself were then in Guienne; Edward persuaded him that you affected the crown; and he returned with that deceiver to draw his sword against his people and their ambitious idol — for so he believed you to be; and grievous has been the expiation of that fatal hour! Your conference with him on the banks of the Carron opened his eyes; he saw what his credulity had made Scotland suffer; what a wreck he had made of his own fame; and from that moment he resolved to follow another course. But the habit of trusting the affection of Edward inclined him rather to remonstrate on his rights than immediately to take up arms against him; yet, resolved not to strike a second blow on his people, when you assailed the Southron camp he withdrew his few remaining followers, who had survived the hard-fought day of Falkirk, into a remote defile. On quitting you, I came up with him in Mid=Lothian; and never having missed me from the camp, he concluded that I had appeared thus late from having kept in the rear of the division.”
Bruce now proceeded to narrate to Wallace the particulars of his father’s meeting with the king at Durham. Instead of that monarch receiving the Earl of Carrick with his wonted familiar welcome, he turned coldly from him when he approached, and suffered him to take his usual seat at the royal table without deigning him the slightest notice. Young Bruce was absent from the banquet, having determined never to mingle again in social communion with the man whom he now regarded as the usurper of his father’s rights. The absence of the filial eye which had once looked the insolent Buchan into his inherent insignificance, now emboldened the audacity of this enemy of the house of Carrick; and, supported by Athol on the one side, and Soulis on the other, the base voluptuary seized a pause in the conversation (that he might draw the attention of all present to the disgrace of the chief), and said, with affected carelessness, “My Lord of Carrick, to-day you dine with clean hands; the last time, I saw you at meat, they were garnished with your own blood!” The earl turned on him a look which asked him to explain. Lord Buchan laughed, and continued, “When we last met at table, was it not in his majesty’s tent after the victory at Falkirk? You were then red from the slaughter of those bastardized people to whom I understand you now give the fond appellation of sons. Having recognized the relationship, it was not probable we should again see your hands in their former brave livery; and their present pallid hue convinces more than myself, of the truth of our information.”
“And me,” cried Edward, rising on the couch to which his wounds confined him, “that I have discovered a traitor! You fled, Lord Carrick, at the first attack which the Scots made on my camp, and you drew thousands after you. I know you too well to believe that cowardice impelled the motion. It was treachery, accursed treachery to your friend and king; and you shall feel the weight of his resentment!”
“to this hour, Kind Edward,” replied the earl, starting from his chair, “I have been more faithful to you than to my country or my God! I heard, saw, and believed, only what you determined; and I became your slave, your vile, oppressed slave! the victim of your artifice! How often have you pledged yourself that you fought in Scotland only for my advantage! I gave my faith and my power to you; and how often have you promised, after the next successful battle, to restore me to the crown of my ancestors! I still believed you, and I still engaged all who yet acknowledged the influence of Bruce, to support your name in Scotland. Was not such the reiterated promise by which you allured me to the field of Falkirk? And when I had covered myself, as Lord Buchan too truly says, with the blood of my children; when I asked my friend for the crown I had served for, what was his answer? ‘Have I naught to do but to win kingdoms to make gifts of?’ Thus, then, did a king, a friend, break his often-repreated word! What wonder, then, that I should feel the indignation of a prince and a friend; and leave the false, alas! the perjured, to defenders whom he seemed more highly to approve? But of treachery, what have I shown? Rather confidence, King Edward; and the confidence that was awakened in the fields of Palestine brought me hither to-day to remonstrate with you on my rights; when by throwing myself into the arms of my people, I might have demanded them at the head of a victorious army.”
Edward, who had prepared by the Cummins to discredit all that Carrick might say in his defense, turned with a look of contempt toward him, and said, “You have persuaded to act like a madman, and as maniacs both yourself and your son shall be guarded till I have leisure to consider any rational evidence you may in future offer in your vindication.”
“And is this the manner, King Edward, that you treat your friend, once your preserver?”
“The vassal,” replied Edward, “who presumes upon the condescension of his prince, and acts as if he were really his equal, ought to meet the punishment due to such arrogance. You saved my life on the walls of Acre; but you owed that duty to the son of your liege lord. In the fervor of youth I inconsiderately rewarded you with my friendship, and the return is treason.” As he concluded he turned from Lord Carrick; and the marshals immediately seizing the earl, took him to the keep of the castle.45
45 These speeches are historically true; as is also Edward’s after-treatment of the Earl of Carrick.
His son, who had been sought in the Carrick quarters, and laid under an arrest, met his father in the guard-chamber. Carrick could not speak; but motioning to be conducted to the place appointed for his prison, the men with equal silence led him through a range of apartments which occupied the middle story, and stopping in the furthest, left him there with his son. Bruce was not surprised at his own arrest; but at that of his father, he stood in speechless astonishment until the guards withdrew; then, seeing Lord Carrick with a changing countenance throw himself on the bed (for it was in his sleeping room they had left him), he exclaimed, “What is the meaning of this, my father? Has any charge against me brought suspicion on you?”
“No, Robert, no,” replied the earl; “it is I who have brought you into this prison, and into disgrace; disgrace with all the world, for having tacitly surrendered my inheritance to the invader of my country. Honest men abhor, villains treat me with contumely; and he for whom I incurred all this, because I would not, when my eyes were open to my sin, again imbrue my hands in the blood of my country, now thrusts me from him! You are implicated in my crime; and for not joining the Southrons to repel the Scots from the royal camp, we are both prisoners!”
“Then,” replied Bruce,” he shall feel that you have a son who has virtue to be what he suspects; and from this hour I proclaim eternal enmity to the betrayer of my father; to the ingrate who embraced you to destroy!”
The indignation of the youthful prince wrought him to so vehement a declaration of resolute and immediate hostility, that Lord Carrick was obliged to give his transports way; but when he saw that his denunciations were exhausted, though not the determined purpose of his soul (for he trod the room with a step which seemed to shake its foundations, with the power of his mighty mind), Carrick gazed on him with pride, yet grief, and sighing heavily called him to approach him. “Come to me, my Robert!” said he, “hear and abide by the last injunctions of your father, for from this bed I may never rise more. A too late sense of the injuries my sanction has doubled on the people I was born to protect, and the ingratitude of him for whom I have offended my God and wronged my country, have broken my heart. I shall die, Robert, but you will avenge me!”
“May God so prosper me!” cried Bruce, raising his arms to heaven. Carrick resumed:
“Attend to me, my dear and brave son, and do not mistake the nature of my last wish. Do not allow the perhaps too forcible word I have used, to hurry you into any personal revenge on Edward. Let him live to feel and to regret the outrages he has committed on the peace and honor of his too faithful friend. Pierce him on the side of his ambition, there he is vulnerable, and there you will heal while you wound. This would be my revenge, dear Robert, that you should one day have his life in your power, and in memory of what I now say, spare it. When I am gone, think not of private resentment. Let your aim be the recovery of the kingdom, which Edward rifled from your fathers. Join the virtuous and triumphant Wallace. Tell him of my remorse, of my fate, and be guided wholly by his counsels. To insure the success of this enterprise, my son — a success to which I look as to the only means of redeeming the name I have lost, and of inspiring my separated spirit with courage to meet the freeborn souls of my ancestors — urge not your own destruction by any premature disclosure of your resolutions. For my sake and for your country’s, suppress your resentment, threaten not the King of England, provoke not the unworthy Scottish lords who have gained his ear; but bury all in your own bosom till you can join Wallace. Then, by his arm, and your own, seat yourself firmly on the throne of your fathers. That moment will sufficiently avenge me on Edward! — and in that moment, Robert! or at least as soon as circumstances can allow, let the English ground which will then hold my body, give up its dead! Remove me to a Scottish grave, and, standing over my ashes, proclaim to them who might have been my people, that for every evil I suffered to fall on Scotland, I have since felt answering pangs, and that dying, I beg their forgiveness, and bequeath them my best blessing-my virtuous son, to reign in my stead!”
These injunctions to assert his own honor and that of his father, were readily sworn to by Bruce; but he could not so easily be made to quell the imperious indignation which was precipitating him to an immediate and loud revenge. The dying earl trembled before the overwhelming passion of his son’s wrath and grief. Treated with outrage and contumely, he saw his father stricken to the earth before him, and he could not bear to hear any temporizing with his murderers. But all this tempest of the soul the wisdom-inspired arguments of the earl at last becalmed, but could not subdue. He convinced his son’s reason by showing him that caution would insure the blow, and that his aim could only be effected by remaining silent till he could publish his father’s honor, evidenced by his own heroism. “Do this,” added Carrick, “and I shall live fair in the memories of men. But be violent, threaten Edward from these walls, menace the wretches who have trodden on the gray hairs of their prince, and your voice will be heard no more; this ground will drink your blood, and blindly judging infamy will forever after point to our obscure graves!”
Such persuasives at last prevailed with Bruce, and next day, writing the hasty lines which Wallace received at Falkirk, he intrusted them to his senachie, who conveyed them to Scotland by means of the shepherd youth.
Shortly after the dispatch of this letter, the presage of Lord Carrick was verified; he was seized in the night with spasms, and died in the arms of his son.
When Bruce related these particulars, his grief and indignation became so violent, that Wallace was obliged to enforce the dying injunctions of the father he thus vehemently deplored, to moderate the delirium of his soul. “Ah!” exclaimed the young earl, “I have indeed needed some friend to save me from myself, some one to reconcile me to the Robert Bruce who had so long slept in the fatal delusions which poisoned his father and laid him low! Oh! Wallace! at times I am mad. I know not whether this forbearance be not cowardice. I doubt whether my father meant what he spoke, that he did not yet seek to preserve the life of his son at the expense of his honor, and I have been ready to precipitate myself on the steel of Edward, so that he should but meet the point of mine!”
Bruce then added, that in his more rational meditations, he had resolved to attempt an escape in the course of a few days. He understood that a deputation of English barons, seeking a ratification of their charter, were soon to arrive in Durham; the bustle attendant on their business would, he hoped, draw attention from him, and afford him the opportunity he sought. “In that case,” continued he, “I should have made directly to Stirling, and had not Providence conducted you to me, I might have unconsciously thrown myself into the midst of enemies. James Cummin is too ambitious to have allowed my life to pass unattempted.”
Whilst he was yet speaking, the door of the chamber burst open, and Bruce’s two attendants rushed into the room with looks aghast. Bruce and Wallace started on their feet and laid their hands on their swords. But instead of anything hostile appearing behind the servants, the inebriated figure of the senachie staggered forward. The men, hardly awake, stood staring and trembling, and looking from the senachie to Wallace; at last one, extricating his terror-struck tongue, and falling on his knees, exclaimed: “Blessed St. Andrew! here is the senachie and his wraith.” Bruce perceived the mistake of his servants, and explaining to them that a traveling minstrel had obliged the senachie by performing his duty, he bade them retire to rest, and think no more of their alarm. The intoxicated bard threw himself without ceremony on his pallet in the recess, and the servants, though convinced, still shaking with superstitious fright, entreated permission to bring their heather beds into their lord’s chamber. To deny them was impossible, and all further converse with Wallace that night being put an end to, a couch was laid for him in an interior apartment, and with a grateful pressure of the hands, in which their hearts silently embraced, the chiefs separated to repose.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59