Part 4 out of 6
"It is of no use," he said at last; "we shall never make Rathlin,
and must even run before the gale. Put up the helm, young sir, and
take her round. Wait a moment till the next wave has passed under
us -- now!" In another minute the boat's head was turned from land,
and she was speeding before the gale.
"In with your oars, lads, and rig the mast, reef down the sail to
the last point; we must show a little to keep her dead before the
wind; we shall have a tremendous sea when we are once fairly away
from the shelter of the island. This gale will soon knock up the
sea, and with the cross swell from the Atlantic it will be as much
as we can do to carry through it."
The mast was stepped and a mere rag of sail hoisted, but this was
sufficient to drive the boat through the water at a great speed.
The old fisherman was steering now, and when the sail was hoisted
the four men all gathered in the stern of the boat.
"You will go between Islay and Jura, I suppose," one of the younger
"Ay," his father said briefly; "the sea will be too high to windward
"Could we not keep inside Jura?" Archie suggested; "and shelter in
some of the harbours on the coast of Argyle?"
"Ay," the old man said; "could we be sure of doing that it would
be right enough, but, strong as the wind is blowing her, it will
be stronger still when we get in the narrow waters between the
islands and the mainland, and it would be impossible to keep her
even a point off the wind; then if we missed making a harbour we
should be driven up through the Strait of Corrievrekan, and the
biggest ship which sails from a Scottish port would not live in the
sea which will be running there. No, it will be bad enough passing
between Islay and Jura; if we get safely through that I shall try
to run into the narrow strait between Colonsay and Oronsay; there
we should have good and safe shelter. If we miss that, we must
run inside Mull -- for there will be no getting without it -- and
either shelter behind Lismore island far up the strait, or behind
Kerara, or into the passage to Loch Etive."
"It will not be the last, I hope," Archie said, "for there stands
Dunstaffnage Castle, and the lands all belong to the MacDougalls.
It is but two months back I was a prisoner there, and though I then
escaped, assuredly if I again get within its walls I shall never
go out again. As well be drowned here."
"Then we will hope," the fisherman said, "that `tis into some other
harbour that this evil wind may blow us; but as you see, young sir,
the gale is the master and not we, and we must needs go where it
chooses to take us."
Fiercer and fiercer blew the gale; a tremendous cross sea was now
running, and the boat, stout and buoyant as she was, seemed every
moment as if she would be engulfed in the chaos of water. Small as
the sail had been it had been taken down and lashed with ropes to
the yard, so that now only about three square feet of canvas was
"We can show a little more," the fisherman shouted in Archie's ear,
"when we get abreast of Islay, for we shall then be sheltered from
the sea from the west, and can run more boldly with only a following
sea; but till we get out of this cross tumble we must not carry
on, we only want steerage way to keep her head straight."
Never before had Archie Forbes seen a great gale in all its strength
at sea, for those which had occurred while at Rathlin were as nothing
to the present; and although on the hillside round Glen Cairn the
wind sometimes blew with a force which there was no withstanding,
there was nothing to impress the senses as did this wild confusion
and turmoil of water. Buoyant as was the boat, heavy seas often broke
on board her, and two hands were constantly employed in bailing;
still Archie judged from the countenance of the men that they did
not deem the position desperate, and that they believed the craft
would weather the gale. Towards midday, although the wind blew
as strongly as ever, there was a sensible change in the motion of
the boat. She no longer was tossed up and down with jerky and sudden
motion, as the waves seemed to rise directly under her, but rose
and fell on the following waves with a steady and regular motion.
"We are well abreast of Islay," the old fisherman said when Archie
remarked on the change to him. "There! do you not see that dark
bank through the mist; that is Islay. We have no longer a cross sea,
and can show a little more sail to keep her from being pooped. We
will bear a little off toward the land -- we must keep it in sight,
and not too far on our left, otherwise we may miss the straits and
run on to Jura."
A little more sail was accordingly shown to the gale, and the boat
scudded along at increased speed.
"How far is it to Colonsay?" Archie asked.
"Between fifty and sixty miles from Rathlin," the fisherman said.
"It was eight o'clock when we started, ten when the squall struck
us, it will be dark by four, and fast as we are running we shall
scarcely be in time to catch the last gleam of day. Come, boys,"
he said to his sons, "give her a little more canvas still, for it
is life and death to reach Colonsay before nightfall, for if we
miss it we shall be dashed on to the Mull long before morning."
A little more sail was accordingly shown, and the boat tore through
the water at what seemed to Archie to be tremendous speed; but she
was shipping but little water now, for though the great waves as
they neared her stern seemed over and over again to Archie as if
they would break upon her and send her instantly to the bottom,
the stout boat always lifted lightly upon them until he at length
felt free from apprehension on that score. Presently the fisherman
pointed out a dark mass over their other bow.
"That is Jura," he said; "we are fair for the channel, lads, but
you must take in the sail again to the smallest rag, for the wind
will blow through the gap between the islands with a force fit to
tear the mast out of her."
Through the rest of his life Archie Forbes regarded that passage
between Islay and Jura as the most tremendous peril he had ever
encountered. Strong as the wind had been before, it was as nothing
to the force with which it swept down the strait -- the height of
the waves was prodigious, and the boat, as it passed over the crest
of a wave, seemed to plunge down a very abyss. The old fisherman
crouched low in the boat, holding the helm, while the other three
lay on the planks in the bottom. Speech was impossible, for the
loudest shouts would have been drowned in the fury of the storm. In
half an hour the worst was over. They were through the straits and
out in the open sea again, but Islay now made a lee for them, and
the sea, high as it was, was yet calm in comparison to the tremendous
waves in the Strait of Jura. More sail was hoisted again, and in
an hour the fisherman said, "Thank God, there are the islands."
The day was already fading, and Archie could with difficulty make
out the slightly dark mass to which the helm pointed.
"Is that Colonsay?" he asked.
"It is Oronsay," the fisherman said. "The islands are close together
and seem as if they had once been one, but have been cleft asunder
by the arm of a giant. The strait between them is very narrow, and
once within it we shall be perfectly sheltered. We must make as
close to the point of the island as we can well go, so as not to
touch the rocks, and then turn and enter the strait. If we keep
out any distance we shall be blown past the entrance, and then our
only remaining chance is to try and run her on to Colonsay, and
take the risk of being drowned as she is dashed upon the rocks."
The light had almost faded when they ran along at the end of Oronsay.
Archie shuddered as he saw the waves break upon the rocks and fly
high up into the air, and felt how small was the chance of their
escape should they be driven on a coast like that. They were but
fifty yards from the point when they came abreast of its extremity;
then the fisherman put down the helm and turned her head towards
the strait, which opened on their left.
"Down with the sail and mast, lads, and out with your oars; we must
row her in."
Not a moment was lost, the sail was lowered, the mast unstepped,
and the oars got out, with a speed which showed how urgent was
the occasion. Archie, who did not feel confidence in his power
to manager her now in such a sea, took his seat by the man on the
stroke thwart, and double banked his oar. Five minutes desperate
rowing and they were under shelter of Oronsay, and were rowing more
quickly up the narrow strait and towards the shore of Colonsay,
where they intended to land. A quarter of an hour more and they
The old fisherman raised his hat reverently. "Let us thank God
and all the saints," he said, "who have preserved us through such
great danger. I have been nigh fifty years at sea, and never was
out in so wild a gale."
For a few minutes all stood silent and bare headed, returning
fervent thanks for their escape.
"It is well," the old man said, as they moved inland, "that I have
been so far north before; there are but few in Rathlin who have
even been north of Islay, but sometimes when fish have been very
plentiful in the island, and the boat for Ayr had already gone,
I have taken up a boatload of fish to the good monks of Colonsay,
who, although fairly supplied by their own fishermen, were yet
always ready to pay a good price for them. Had you been in a boat
with one who knew not the waters, assuredly we must have perished,
for neither skill nor courage could have availed us. There! do you
see that light ahead? That is the priory, and you may be sure of
a welcome there."
The priory door was opened at their ring, and the monk who unclosed
it, greatly surprised at visitors on such a night, at once bade
them enter when he heard that they were fishermen whom the storm
had driven to shelter on the island. The fishermen had to lend
their aid to the monk to reclose the door, so great was the power
of the wind. The monk shot the bolts, saying, "We need expect no
further visitors tonight;" and led them into the kitchen, where a
huge fire was blazing.
"Quick, brother Austin," he said to the monk, who acted as cook,
"warm up a hot drink for these poor souls, for they must assuredly
be well nigh perished with cold, seeing that they have been wet
for many hours and exposed to all the violence of this wintry gale."
Archie and his companions were, indeed, stiff with cold and exposure,
and could scarce answer the questions which the monks asked them.
"Have patience, brother! have patience!" brother Austin said. "When
their tongues are unfrozen doubtless they will tell you all that
you want to know. Only wait, I pray you, till they have drunk this
posset which I am preparing."
The monk's curiosity was not, however, destined to be so speedily
satisfied, for just as the voyagers were finishing their hot drinks
a monk entered with a message that the prior, having heard that
some strangers had arrived, would fain welcome and speak with them
in his apartment. They rose at once.
"When the prior has done questioning you," brother Austin said,
"return hither at once. I will set about preparing supper for you,
for I warrant me you must need food as well as drink. Fear not but,
however great your appetite may be, I will have enough to satisfy
it ready by the time you return."
"Welcome to Colonsay!" the prior said, as the four men entered his
apartment; "but stay -- I see you are drenched to the skin; and it
were poor hospitality, indeed, to keep you standing thus even to
assure you of your welcome. Take them," he said to the monk, "to
the guest chamber at once, and furnish them with changes of attire.
When they are warm and comfortable return with them hither."
In ten minutes Archie and his companions re-entered the prior's
room. The prior looked with some astonishment at Archie; for in
the previous short interview he had not noticed the difference in
their attire, and had supposed them to be four fishermen. The monk,
however, had marked the difference; and on inquiry, finding that
Archie was a knight, had furnished him with appropriate attire.
The good monks kept a wardrobe to suit guests of all ranks, seeing
that many visitors came to the holy priory, and that sometimes the
wind and waves brought them to shore in such sorry plight that a
change of garments was necessary.
"Ah!" the prior said, in surprise; "I crave your pardon sir knight,
that I noticed not your rank when you first entered. The light is
somewhat dim, and as you stood there together at the door way I
noticed not that you were of superior condition to the others."
"That might well be, holy prior," Archie said, "seeing that we
were more like drowned beasts than Christian men. We have had a
marvellous escape from the tempest -- thanks to God and his saints!
-- seeing that we were blown off Rathlin, and have run before the
gale down past Islay and through the Straits of Jura. Next to the
protection of God and His saints, our escape is due to the skill
and courage of my brave companions here, who were as cool and calm
in the tempest as if they had been sitting by the ingle fires at
"From Rathlin!" the prior said in surprise, "and through the strait
`twixt Islay and Jura! Truly that was a marvellous voyage in such
a gale - and as I suppose, in an open boat. But how comes it,
sir knight -- if I may ask the question without prying into your
private affairs -- that you, a knight, were at Rathlin? In so wild
and lonely an island men of your rank are seldom to be found."
"There are many there now, holy prior, far higher in rank than
myself," Archie replied, "seeing that Robert the Bruce, crowned King
of Scotland, James Douglas, and others of his nobles and knights,
are sheltering there with him from the English bloodhounds."
"The Bruce at Rathlin!" the prior exclaimed, in surprise. "The
last ship which came hither from the mainland told us that he was
a hunted fugitive in Lennox; and we deemed that seeing the MacDougalls
of Lorne and all the surrounding chiefs were hostile to him, and
the English scattered thickly over all the low country, he must
long ere this have fallen into the hands of his enemies."
"Thanks to Heaven's protection," Archie said devoutly, "the king
with a few followers escaped and safely reached Rathlin!"
"Thou shouldst not speak of Heaven's protection," the prior said,
sternly, "seeing that Bruce has violated the sanctuary of the
church, has slain his enemy within her walls, has drawn down upon
himself the anathema of the pope, and has been declared excommunicated
"The pope, holy father," Archie replied, "although supreme in
all holy things, is but little qualified to judge of the matter,
seeing that he draws his information from King Edward, under whose
protection he lives. The good Bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow,
with the Abbot of Scone, and many other dignitaries of the Scottish
church, have condoned his offense, seeing that it was committed
in hot blood and without prior intent. The king himself bitterly
regrets the deed, which preys sorely upon his mind; but I can answer
for it that Bruce had no thought of meeting Comyn at Dumfries."
"You speak boldly, young sir," the prior said, sternly, "for one
over whose head scarce two-and-twenty years can have rolled; but
enough now. You are storm staid and wearied; you are the guests of
the convent. I will not keep you further now, for you have need
of food and sleep. Tomorrow I will speak with you again."
So saying, the prior sharply touched a bell which stood on a table
near him. The monk re-entered. The prior waved his hand: "Take these
guests to the refectory and see that they have all they stand in
need of, and that the bed chambers are prepared. In the morning I
would speak to them again.
Chapter XV A Mission to Ireland
Father Austin was as good as his word, and it was long indeed
since Archie had sat down to such a meal as that which was spread
for him. Hungry as he was, however, he could scarce keep his eyes
open to its conclusion, so great was the fatigue of mind and body;
and on retiring to the chamber which the monks had prepared for
him, he threw himself on a couch and instantly fell asleep. In
the morning the gale still blew violently, but with somewhat less
fury than on the preceding evening. He joined the monks at their
morning meal in the refectory, and after their repast they gathered
round him to listen to his news of what was doing in Scotland; for
although at ordinary times pilgrims came not unfrequently to visit
the holy isle of Colonsay, in the present stormy times men stirred
but little from home, and it was seldom that the monks obtained news
of what was passing on the mainland. Presently a servitor brought
word that the prior would see Archie.
"It was ill talking last night," the prior said, "with a man hungry
and worn out; but I gathered from what you said that you are not
only a follower of Bruce, but that you were with him at that fatal
day at Dumfries when he drew his dagger upon Comyn in the sanctuary."
"I was there, holy father," Archie replied, "and can testify that
the occurrence was wholly unpremeditated; but Bruce had received
sufficient provocation from the Comyn to afford him fair reason for
slaying him wheresoever they might meet. But none can regret more
than he does that that place of meeting was in a sanctuary. The
Comyn and Bruce had made an agreement together whereby the former
relinquished his own claims to the throne of Scotland on condition
that Bruce, on attaining the throne, would hand over to him all
his lordships in Carrick and Annandale."
"It were a bad bargain," the prior said, "seeing that Comyn would
then be more powerful than his king."
"So I ventured to tell the Bruce," Archie replied.
"Thou?" the prior said; "you are young, sir, to be in a position
to offer counsel to Robert Bruce."
"I am young, holy prior," Archie said modestly; "but the king is
good enough to overlook my youth in consideration of my fidelity
to the cause of Scotland. My name is Archibald Forbes."
"Sir Archibald Forbes!" the prior repeated, rising; "and are you
really that loyal and faithful Scottish knight who fought ever by
the side of Wallace, and have almost alone refused ever to bow the
knee to the English? Even to this lonely isle tales have come of
your valour, how you fought side by side with Wallace, and were,
with Sir John Grahame, his most trusty friend and confidant. Many
of the highest and noblest of Scotland have for centuries made
their way to the shrine of Colonsay, but none more worthy to be
our guest. Often have I longed to see so brave a champion of our
country, little thinking that you would one day come a storm driven
guest. Truly am I glad to see you, and I say it even though you may
have shared in the deed at Dumfries, for which I would fain hope
from your words there is fairer excuse to be made than I had hitherto
deemed. I have thought that the Bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow
were wrong in giving their countenance to a man whom the holy
father had condemned -- a man whose prior history gives no ground
for faith in his patriotism, who has taken up arms, now for, now
against, the English, but has ever been ready to make terms with
the oppressor, and to parade as his courtier at Westminster. In
such a man I can have no faith, and deem that, while he pretends
to fight for Scotland, he is in truth but warring for his
own aggrandizement. But since you, the follower and friend of the
disinterested and intrepid champion of Scotland, speak for the
Bruce, it maybe that my judgement has been too severe upon him."
Archie now related the incident of his journey to London to urge
Bruce to break with Edward and to head the national movement. He
told how, even before the discovery of his agreement with Comyn,
brought about by the treachery of the latter, Bruce had determined
definitely to throw in his cause with that of Scotland; how upon
that discovery he had fled north, and, happening to meet Comyn at
Dumfries, within the limits of the sanctuary, had, in his indignation
and ire at his treachery, drawn and slain him. Then he told the
tale of what had taken place after the rout of Methven, how bravely
Bruce had borne himself, and had ever striven to keep up the hearts
of his companions; how cheerfully he had supported the hardships,
and how valiantly he had borne himself both at Methven and when
attacked by the MacDougalls of Lorne.
"Whatever his past may have been," Archie concluded, "I hold that
now the Bruce is as earnest in the cause of Scotland as was even
my dear leader Wallace. In strength and in courage he rivals that
valiant knight, for though I hold that Wallace was far more than
a match for any man of his time, yet Bruce is a worthy second to
him, for assuredly no one in Scotland could cross swords with him
on equal chances. That he will succeed in his enterprise it were
rash to say, for mighty indeed are the odds against him; but if
courage, perseverance, and endurance can wrest Scotland from the
hands of the English, Robert Bruce will, if he lives, accomplish
"Right glad am I," the prior replied, "to hear what you have told
me. Hitherto, owing to my memory of his past and my horror at his
crime -- for though from what you tell me there was much to excuse
it, still it was a grievous crime -- I have had but little interest
in the struggle, but henceforth this will be changed. You may
tell the king that from this day, until death or victory crown his
efforts, prayers will be said to heaven night and day at Colonsay
for his success."
It was four days before the storm was over and the sea sufficiently
calmed to admit of Archie's departure. During that time he remained
as the honoured guest of the priory, and the good monks vied with
the prior in their attentions to the young knight, the tales of
whose doings, as one of Scotland's foremost champions, had so often
reached their lonely island. At the end of that time, the sea being
now calm and smooth, with a light wind from the north, Archie bade
adieu to his hosts and sailed from Colonsay.
Light as the wind was, it sufficed to fill the sail; and as the boat
glided over the scarce rippled water Archie could not but contrast
the quiet sleepy motion with the wild speed at which the boat had
torn through the water on her northern way. It was not until the
following morning that Rathlin again came in sight.
As the boat was seen approaching, and was declared by the islanders
to be that which they had regarded as lost in the storm a week
previously, the king, Douglas, and the rest of his followers made
their way down to the shore; and loud was the shout of welcome
which arose when Archie stood up and waved his hand.
"Verily, Archie Forbes," the king said as he warmly embraced the
young knight, "I shall begin to think that the fairies presided
at your birth and gave you some charm to preserve your life alike
against the wrath of men and of the elements. Never assuredly did
anyone pass through so many dangers unscathed as you have done."
"I hope to pass through as many more, sire, in your service," Archie
"I hope so, indeed," Bruce replied; "for it were an evil day for
me and for Scotland that saw you fall; but henceforth I will fret
no more concerning you. You alone of Wallace's early companions
have survived. You got free from Dunstaffnage by some miracle
which you have never fully explained to me, and now it would seem
that even the sea refuses to swallow you."
"I trust," Archie said more gravely, "that the old saying is not
true in my case, and that hanging is not to be my fate. Assuredly
it will be if I ever fall into the hands of Edward, and I shall
think it a cruel fate indeed if fortune, which has spared me so
often in battle, leads me to that cruel end at last."
"I trust not indeed, Sir Archie," the king said, "though hanging now
has ceased to be a dishonourable death when so many of Scotland's
best and bravest have suffered it at the English hands. However, I
cannot but think that your fairy godmother must have reserved for
you the fate of the heroes of most of the stories of my old nurse,
which always wound up with `and so he married, and lived happily
ever after.' And now, Archie, tell me all that has befallen you,
where you have been, and how you fared, and by what miraculous chance
you escaped the tempest. All our eyes were fixed on the boat when
you laboured to reach the shore, and had you heard the groans
we uttered when we saw you give up the effort as hopeless and fly
away to sea before the wind you would have known how truly all
your comrades love you. We gave you up as assuredly lost, for the
islanders here agreed that you had no chance of weathering the
gale, and that the boat would, ere many hours, be dashed to pieces
either on Islay or Jura, should it even reach so far; but the most
thought that you would founder long ere you came in sight of the
Accompanying the king with his principal companions to the hut
which he occupied, Archie related the incidents of the voyage and
of their final refuge at Colonsay.
"It was a wonderful escape," the king said when be finished, "and
the holy Virgin and the saints must assuredly have had you in their
especial care. You have cost us well nigh a fortune, for not one
of us but vowed offerings for your safety, which were, perchance,
the more liberal, since we deemed the chances of paying them so
small. However, they shall be redeemed, for assuredly they have
been well earned, and for my share I am bound, when I come to my
own, to give a piece of land of the value of one hundred marks a
year to the good monks of St. Killian's to be spent in masses for
the souls of those drowned at sea."
Some days later the king said to Archie, "I have a mission for you;
`tis one of danger, but I know that that is no drawback in your
"I am ready," Archie said modestly, "to carry out to the best of
my power any errand with which your majesty may intrust me."
"I have been thinking, Sir Archie, that I might well make some sort
of alliance with the Irish chieftains. Many of these are, like
most of our Scotch nobles, on terms of friendship with England;
still there are others who hold aloof from the conquerors. It would
be well to open negotiations with these, so that they by rising
might distract Edward's attention from Scotland, while we, by our
efforts, would hinder the English from sending all their force
thither, and we might thus mutually be of aid to each other. At
present I am, certes, in no position to promise aid in men or money;
but I will bind myself by an oath that if my affairs in Scotland
prosper I will from my treasury furnish money to aid them in carrying
on the struggle, and that if I clear Scotland of her oppressors
I will either go myself or send one of my brothers with a strong
force to aid the Irish to follow our example. The mission is, as
you will see, Sir Archie, a dangerous one; for should any of the
English, or their Irish allies, lay hands on you, your doom would
be sealed. Still you may do me and Scotland great service should
you succeed in your mission. Even minor risings would be of much
utility, seeing that they would at any rate prevent Edward from
bringing over troops from Ireland to assist in our conquest. I have
thought the matter over deeply, and conclude that, young as you are,
I can intrust it to you with confidence, and that you are indeed
the best fitted among those with me to undertake it. Douglas is
but a boy; my brother Edward is too hot and rash; Boyd is impatient
and headstrong, trusty and devoted to me though he is; but I am
sure that in you there is no lack either of prudence or courage.
Hence, Sir Archie, if you will undertake it I will intrust it to
"I will willingly undertake it, sire, since you think me fitting
for it, and deem it a high honour indeed that you have chosen me.
When will you that I start?"
"It were best to lose no time," the king replied, "and if you have
no reason for delay I would that you should embark tonight, so that
before daybreak you may have gained the Irish shore. They tell me
that there are many desperate men in refuge among the caves on the
coast, and among these you might choose a few who might be useful
to you in your project; but it is not in this part that a rising
can be effected, for the country inland is comparatively flat and
wholly in the hands of the English. It is on the west coast that
the resistance to the English was continued to the last, and here
from time to time it blazes out again. In those parts, as they tell
me, not only are there wild mountains and fastnesses such as we
have in Scotland, but there are great morasses and swamps, extending
over wide tracts, where heavy armed soldiers cannot penetrate,
and where many people still maintain a sort of wild independence,
defying all the efforts of the English to subdue them. The people
are wild and savage, and ever ready to rise against the English.
Here, then, is the country where you are most likely to find chiefs
who may enter into our plans, and agree to second our efforts for
independence. Here are some rings and gold chains, which are all
that remain to me of my possessions. Money I have none; but with
these you may succeed in winning the hearts of some of these savage
chieftains. Take, too, my royal signet, which will be a guarantee
that you have power to treat in my name. I need not tell you to be
brave, Sir Archie; but be prudent -- remember that your life is of
the utmost value to me. I want you not to fight, but simply to act
as my envoy. If you succeed in raising a great fire in the west
of Ireland, remain there and act as councillor to the chiefs,
remembering that you are just as much fighting for Scotland there
as if you were drawing sword against her foes at home. If you find
that the English arm is too strong, and the people too cowed and
disheartened to rise against it, then make your way back here by
the end of three months, by which time I hope to sail hence and to
raise my standard in Scotland again."
On leaving the king Archie at once conferred with Duncan the fisherman,
who willingly agreed that night to set him ashore in Ireland.
"I will land you," he said, "at a place where you need not fear
that any English will meet you. It is true that they have a castle
but three miles away perched on a rock on the coast. It is called
Dunluce, and commands a wide seaward view, and for this reason it
were well that our boat were far out at sea again before morning
dawned, so that if they mark us they will not suppose that we have
touched on the coast; else they might send a party to search if
any have landed -- not even then that you need fear discovery, for
the coast abounds in caves and hiding places. My sons have often
landed there, for we do a certain trade in the summer from the island
in fish and other matters with the natives there. If it pleases
you my son Ronald, who is hardy and intelligent, shall land with
you and accompany you as your retainer while you remain in Ireland.
The people there speak a language quite different to that which you
use in the lowlands of Scotland and in England, but the language
we speak among ourselves closely resembles it, and we can be easily
understood by the people of the mainland. You would be lost did
you go among the native Irish without an interpreter."
Archie thankfully accepted the offer, and that night, after bidding
adieu to the friends and his comrades, started in Duncan's boat.
"`Tis a strange place where I am going to land you," the fisherman
said; "such a place as nowhere else have my eyes beheld, though they
say that at the Isle of Staffa, far north of Colonsay, a similar
sight is to be seen. The rocks, instead of being rugged or square,
rise in close columns like the trunks of trees, or like the columns
in the church of the priory of Colonsay. Truly they seem as if
wrought by the hands of men, or rather of giants, seeing that no
men could carry out so vast a work. The natives have legends that
they are the work of giants of old times. How this may be I know
not, though why giants should have engaged in so useless a work
passes my understanding. However, there are the pillars, whosoever
placed them there. Some of them are down by the level of the sea.
Here their heads seem to be cut off so as to form a landing place,
to which the natives give the name of the Giant's Causeway. Others
in low rows stand on the face of the cliff itself, though how any
could have stood there to work them, seeing that no human foot can
reach the base, is more than I can say. `Tis a strange and wonderful
sight, as you will say when the morning light suffers you to see
It was fortunate that Duncan knew the coast so well, and was able
by the light of the stars to find a landing place, for quiet as the
sea appeared a swell rose as they neared the shore, and the waves
beat heavily on the wild and rocky coast. Duncan, however, steered
his boat to the very foot of the Causeway, and then, watching his
opportunity, Archie sprang ashore followed by Ronald. A few words
of adieu were spoken, and then the boat rowed out to sea again,
while Archie and Ronald turned away from the landing place.
"It were best," the young fisherman said, "to find a seat among the
rocks, and there to await the dawn, when I can guide you to some
caves hard by; but in the darkness we might well fall and break a
limb did we try and make our way across the coast.''
A niche was soon found, and Archie and his companion sat down for
a while. Archie, however, soon discovered that the sides and back
of his seat were formed of the strange columns of which Duncan had
spoken, and that he was sitting upon the tops of others which had
broken off. Eagerly he passed his hands over the surface of these
strange pillars, and questioned his companion as to what he knew
about them; but Ronald could tell him no more than his father
had done, and Archie was forced to await the dawn to examine more
closely the strange columns. Daylight only added to his wonder.
On all sides of him stretched the columns, packed in a dense mass
together, while range above range they stood on the face of the
great cliffs above him. The more he examined them the more his
"They can neither be the work of men nor giants," he said, "but
must have been called up by the fantastic freak of some powerful
enchanter. Hitherto I have not believed the tales of these mysterious
beings of old times; but after seeing these wonderful pillars I
can no longer doubt, for assuredly no mortal hand could have done
Ronald now urged that they had better be moving, as it was possible,
although unlikely enough, that one passing along the top of the
cliffs might get sight of them. They accordingly moved along the
shore, and in a quarter of a mile reached the mouth of a great
cave. The bottom was covered with rocks, which had fallen from the
roof, thickly clustered over with wet seaweed, which, indeed, hung
from the sides far up, showing that at high tide the sea penetrated
far into the cave.
"The ground rises beyond," Ronald said, "and you will find recesses
there which the tide never reaches." They moved slowly at first
until their eyes became accustomed to the darkness; then they kept
on, the ground getting more even as they ascended, until they stood
on a dry and level floor.
"Now I will strike a light," Ronald said, "and light the torch
which I brought with me. We are sure to find plenty of driftwood
cast up at the highest point the tide reaches. Then we can make a
fire, and while you remain here I will go out and find some of the
natives, and engage a guide to take us forward tonight."
Taking out his flint and steel, Ronald proceeded to strike a light,
and after several efforts succeeded in doing so and in igniting
some dried moss which he had brought with him, carefully shielded
from damp in the folds of his garment. As a light flame rose
he applied his torch to it; but as he did so, came an exclamation
of astonishment, for gathered in a circle round them were a dozen
wild figures. All were armed and stood in readiness to strike down
the intruders into their hiding place. They were barefooted, and
had doubtless been asleep in the cave until, when awakened by the
approaching footsteps and voices, they had silently arisen and
prepared to fall upon the intruders.
"We are friends," Ronald said in the native language when he
recovered from his start of surprise. "I am Ronald, a fisherman
from Rathlin, and was over here in the summer exchanging fish for
"I recollect you," one of the men said; "but what do you here so
strangely and secretly? Are the English hunting you too from your
island as they have done us?"
"They have not come to Rathlin yet," Ronald said.
"Doubtless they would do so, but `tis too poor to offer any
temptation for their greed. But they are our enemies as they are
yours. I am here to guide this Scottish knight, who is staying at
Rathlin, a fugitive from their vengeance like yourself, and who is
charged with a mission from the King of Scotland to your chiefs,
whom he would fain induce to join in a rising against the power of
"He is welcome," the man who appeared to be the leader of the party
replied, "and may he succeed in his object; but," he continued
bitterly, "I fear that the chance is a small one. The Norman foot
is on our necks, and most of those who should be our leaders have
basely accepted the position of vassals to the English king. Still
there are brave hearts yet in Ireland who would gladly rise did they
see even a faint chance of success. Hundreds are there who, like
us, prefer to live the lives of hunted dogs in caves, in mountain
fastnesses, or in the bogs, rather than yield to the English yoke.
Tell me your plans and whither you would go; and I will give you
guides who know every foot of the country, and who can lead you to
the western hills, where, though no open resistance is made, the
English have scarce set foot. There we generally find refuge;
and `tis only at times, when the longing to see the homes of our
childhood becomes too strong for us, that I and those you see -- all
of whom were born and reared between this and Coleraine -- come
hither for a time, when at night we can issue out and prowl round
the ruins of the homes of our fathers."
While this conversation had been going on, the others, seeing that
the visit was a friendly one, had set to work, and bringing up
driftwood from below, piled it round the little blaze which Ronald
had commenced, and soon had a great fire lighted. They then produced
the carcass of a sheep which they had the evening before carried
off. Ronald had brought with him a large pile of oaten cakes, and
a meal was speedily prepared.
Archie could not but look with surprise at the wild figures around
him, lit up by the dancing glare of the fire. Their hair lay in
tangled masses on their necks; their attire was of the most primitive
description, consisting but of one garment secured round the waist
by a strap of untanned leather; their feet and legs were bare.
Their hair was almost black; their eyes small and glittering, with
heavy overhanging brows; and they differed altogether in appearance
even from the wildest and poorest of the Scottish peasantry. In
their belts all bore long knives of rough manufacture, and most of
them carried slings hanging from the belt, in readiness for instant
use. In spite of the wildness of their demeanour they seemed kindly
and hospitable; and many were the questions which they asked Ronald
concerning the King of Scotland and his knights who were in refuge
When the meal was over all stretched themselves on the sand like so
many animals, and without further preparation went off to sleep.
Archie, knowing that nothing could be done until nightfall,
followed their example. The fire had by this time burned low, and
soon perfect stillness reigned in the great cavern, save that far
away at its mouth the low thunder of the waves upon the rocks came
up in a confused roar.
Chapter XVI An Irish Rising
When night came on Archie started for the west, accompanied by
Ronald and two of the Irish as guides. They crossed the country
without question or interference, and reached the wild mountains
of Donegal in safety. Archie had asked that his conductors should
lead him to the abode of the principal chieftain of the district.
The miserable appearance of the sparsely scattered villages through
which they had passed had prepared him to find that the superiors
of such a people would be in a very different position from the
feudal lords of the Highlands of Scotland. He was not surprised,
therefore, when his attendants pointed out a small hold, such as
would appertain to a small landowner on the Scottish Border, as the
residence of the chief. Around it were scattered a number of low
huts composed of turf, roofed with reeds. From these, when the
approach of strangers was reported, a number of wild looking figures
poured out, armed with weapons of the most primitive description.
A shout from Archie's guides assured these people that the newcomer
was not, as his appearance betokened him, a Norman knight, but
a visitor from Scotland who sought a friendly interview with the
Insignificant as was the hold, it was evident that something like
feudal discipline was kept up. Two men, armed with pikes, were
stationed on the wall, while two others leant in careless fashion
against the posts of the open gate. On the approach of Archie an
elderly man, with a long white beard, came out to meet them. Ronald
explained to him that Archie was a knight who had come as an emissary
from the King of Scotland to the Irish chieftains, and desired to
speak with the great Fergus of Killeen. The old man bowed deeply
to Archie, and then escorted him into the house.
The room which they entered occupied the whole of the ground
floor of the hold, and was some thirty feet wide by forty long. As
apparently trees of sufficient length to form the beams of so wide
an apartment could not be obtained, the floor above was supported
by two rows of roughly squared posts extending down from end to
end. The walls were perfectly bare. The beams and planks of the
ceiling were stained black by the smoke of a fire which burned in
one corner; the floor was of clay beaten hard. A strip some ten
feet wide, at the further end, was raised eighteen inches above the
general level, forming a sort of dais. Here, in a carved settle of
black wood, sat the chief. Some females, evidently the ladies of
his family, were seated on piles of sheepskins, and were plying
their distaffs; while an aged man was seated on the end of the dais
with a harp of quaint form on his knee; his fingers touched a last
chord as Archie entered, and he had evidently been playing while
the ladies worked. Near him on the dais was a fire composed of
wood embers, which were replenished from time to time with fresh
glowing pieces of charcoal taken from the fire at the other end of
the room, so that the occupants of the dais should not be annoyed
by the smoke arising close to them.
The chief was a fine looking man about fifty years old. He was
clad in a loose fitting tunic of soft dark green cloth, confined at
the waist by a broad leathern band with silver clasp and ornaments,
and reaching to his knees. His arms were bare; on his feet he wore
sandals, and a heavy sword rested against the wall near his hand.
The ladies wore dresses of similar material and of somewhat similar
fashion, but reaching to the feet. They wore gold armlets; and the
chief's wife had a light band of gold round her head. The chief
rose when Archie entered; and upon the seneschal informing him of
the rank and mission of his visitor he stepped from the dais, and
advancing, greeted him warmly. Then he led him back to the dais,
where he presented to him the ladies of his family, ordering the
retainers, of whom about a score were gathered in the hall, to
place two piles of sheepskins near the fire. On one of these he sat
down, and motioned to Archie to take his place on the other -- his
own chair being removed to a corner. Then, through the medium of
Ronald, the conversation began.
Archie related to the chief the efforts which the Scotch were
making to win their freedom from England, and urged in the king's
name that a similar effort should be made by the Irish; as the
forces of the English, being thereby divided and distracted, there
might be better hope of success. The chief heard the communication
in grave silence. The ladies of the family stood behind the chief
with deeply interested faces; and as the narrative of the long
continued struggle which the Scots were making for freedom continued
it was clear, by their glowing cheeks and their animated faces,
how deeply they sympathized in the struggle.
The wife of the chief, a tall and stately lady, stood immediately
behind him with her two daughters, girls of some seventeen or
eighteen years of age, beside her. As Ronald was translating his
words Archie glanced frequently at the group, and thought he had
never seen one fairer or more picturesque. There was a striking
likeness between mother and daughters; but the expression of staid
dignity in the one was in the others replaced by a bright expression
of youth and happiness. Their beauty was of a kind new to Archie.
Their dark glossy hair was kept smoothly in place by the fillet
of gold in the mother's case, and by purple ribbons in that of the
daughters. Their eyebrows and long eyelashes were black, but their
eyes were gray, and as light as those to which Archie was accustomed
under the fair tresses of his countrywomen. The thing that struck
him most in the faces of the girls was their mobility, the expression
changing as it seemed in an instant from grave to gay -- flushing
at one moment with interest at the tale of deeds of valour, paling
at the next at the recital of cruel oppression and wrong. When Archie
had finished his narrative he presented to the chief a beautifully
wrought chain of gold as a token from the King of Scotland.
The chief was silent for some time after the interpreter concluded
Archie's narrative; then he said:
"Sir knight, it almost seems to me as if I had been listening to
the tale of the wrongs of Ireland, save that it appears that the
mastery of the English here has been more firmly established than
with you. This may be from the nature of the country; our hills
are, for the most part, bare, while yours, you say, are covered
with forest. Thus the Normans could more easily, when they had once
gained the upper hand, crush out the last vestiges of opposition
than they could with you. As I judge from what you say, the English
in Scotland hold all the fortresses, and when the people rise they
remain sheltered in them until assistance comes from England. With
us it is different. First they conquer all the country; then from
a wide tract, a third perhaps of the island, they drive out the whole
of the people, and establish themselves firmly there, portioning the
land among the soldiery and repeopling the country with an English
race. Outside this district the Irish chieftains, like myself,
retain something of independence; we pay a tribute, and are in the
position of feudatories, being bound to furnish so many men for
the King of England's wars if called upon to do so. The English
seldom come beyond their pale so long as the tribute is paid, and
the yoke, therefore, weighs not so heavy upon us; but were we to
rise, the English army would pour out from its pale and carry fire
and sword throughout the country.
"We, like you, have been without one who would unite us against the
common enemy. Our great chiefs have, for the most part, accepted
English titles, and since their power over the minor chiefs is
extended, rather than decreased by the changed circumstances, they
are well content, for they rule now over their districts, not only
as Irish chieftains, but as English lieutenants. You have seen,
as you journeyed here, how sparse is the population of our hills,
and how slight would be the opposition which we could offer, did
the Earl of Ulster sweep down upon us with trained English soldiers.
"Were there a chance of success, Fergus of Killeen would gladly
draw the sword again; but I will not bring ruin upon my family
and people by engaging in a hopeless enterprise. Did I raise
my standard, all Donegal would take up arms; but Donegal alone is
powerless against England. I know my people -- they are ready for
the fray, they would rush to battle and perish in thousands to win
victory, but one great defeat would crush them. The story of the
long fight which your Wallace, with a small following, made against
the power of England, will never be told of an Irish leader. We
have bravery and reckless courage, but we have none of the stubborn
obstinacy of your Scottish folk. Were the flag raised the people
would flock to it, and would fight desperately; but if they lost,
there would be utter and complete collapse. The fortitude to support
repeated defeats, to struggle on when the prospect seems darkest,
does not belong to my people.
"It is for this reason that I have no hope that Ireland will ever
regain its independence. She may struggle against the yoke, she
may blaze out again and again in bloody risings, our sons may die
in tens of thousands for her; but never, I believe, as long as the
men of the two countries remain what they are, will Ireland recover
her independence, for, in the long run, English perseverance and
determination will overcome the fitful courage of the Irish. I
grieve that I should say it.I mourn that I feel it my duty to
repress rather than to encourage the eager desire of my people to
draw the sword and strike for freedom; but such is my conviction.
"But understand, sir knight, that whatever I may think, I shall
not be backward in doing my part. If Ireland again rises, should
the other native chieftains determine to make one more effort to
drive the English across the channel, be sure that Fergus of Killeen
and the men of Donegal will be in the front of the battle. No heart
beats more warmly for freedom than mine; and did I stand alone I
would take to the bogs and join those who shelter there, defying
the might of England. But I have my people to think of. I have seen
how the English turn a land to desolation as they sweep across it,
and I will not bring fire and sword into these mountain valleys
unless all Ireland is banded in a common effort. You have seen
Scotland wasted from sea to sea, her cities burned, her people
slain by thousands, her dales and valleys wasted; and can you tell
me that after these years of struggle you have gained any such
advantage as would warrant your advising me to rise against England?"
Archie was silent. Thinking over the struggle in which he had
taken part for so many years, and remembering the woes that it had
brought on Scotland, and that, after fighting so long, Bruce and
the handful of fugitives at Rathlin were the sole survivors of the
patriotic party, he could not but acknowledge at heart the justice
of the chiefs words. His sole hope for Scotland now rested in the
perseverance and personal valour of the king, and the stubborn
character of the people, which he felt assured would lead them
to rise again and again, in spite of disaster and defeat, until
freedom was won. The Irish possessed no Bruce; their country was
less defendible than Scotland; and if, as Fergus said, they had none
of that indomitable perseverance which enabled the Scotch people
again and again to rise against the yoke, what hope could there
be of final success, how could he be justified in urging upon the
chieftain a step which would bring fire and sword into those quiet
valleys! For some time, therefore, after Ronald had translated the
chief's speech he remained silent.
"I will not urge you further, sir," he said, "for you are surely
the best judge of what is good for your people, and I have seen
such ruin and desolation in Scotland, so many scores of ruined
towns and villages, so many thousands of levelled homesteads, that
I will not say a single word to urge you to alter your resolution.
It is enough for me that you have said that if Ireland rises you
will also draw the sword. I must carry out my instructions, and
hence shall travel south and visit other chiefs; they may view
matters differently, and may see that what Ireland cannot do alone
she may do in conjunction with Scotland."
"So be it!" Fergus said. "Believe me, if you raise a flame through
the west the north will not hang back. And now I trust that you
will remain here for a few days as my guest. All that I have is
yours, and my wife and daughters will do their best to make the
time pass pleasantly for you."
Archie remained three days at the chiefs hold, where the primitive
life interested him greatly. A lavish hospitality was exercised.
Several sheep were killed and roasted each day, and all comers were
free to join the repast. The chief's more immediate retainers, some
twenty in number, ate, lived, and slept in the great hall; while
tables were spread outside, at which all who came sat down without
question. The upper rooms of the hold were occupied by the chief,
the ladies of his family, and the female domestics. Here they retired
when they felt disposed, but their meals were served on the dais.
In the evening the harper played and sang legends of deeds of bravery
in the day of Ireland's independence; and as Ronald translated the
songs to him Archie could not but conclude privately that civil war,
rapine, strife, and massacre must have characterized the country
in those days.
At the conclusion of his stay Fergus appointed two of the retainers
to accompany Archie south, and to give assurance to the various
wild people through whom he might pass, that Archie's mission was
a friendly one to Ireland, and that he was an honoured friend and
guest of the chief of Killeen.
On his arrival in Mayo Archie found matters more favourable to his
mission. An insurrection had already broken out, headed by some of
the local chieftains, originating in a broil between the English
soldiers of a garrison and the natives. The garrison had been
surprised and massacred, and the wild Irish were flocking to arms.
By the chieftains here Archie, on explaining his mission, was warmly
welcomed. As they were already in arms no urging on his part was
needed, and they despatched messengers throughout the country,
saying that an emissary from Scotland had arrived, and calling upon
all to rise and to join with the Scotch in shaking off the yoke of
Archie had therefore to travel no farther, and decided that he
could best carry out his mission by assisting to organize and lead
the Irish forces. These he speedily discovered were beyond all
comparison inferior, both in arms, in discipline, and in methods
of fighting, to the Scots. For a dashing foray they would be
excellent. Hardy, agile, and full of impetuosity, they would bear
down all resistance instantly, were that resistance not too strong;
but against stubborn and well armed troops they would break like
a wave against a rock. Archie saw that with such troops anything
like regular war would be impossible, and that the struggle must
be one of constant surprises, attacks, and forays, and that they
could succeed only by wearing out and not by defeating the enemy.
With such tactics as these they might by long perseverance succeed;
but this was just what Fergus had warned him they would not practise,
and that their courage was rather of a kind which would lead them
to dash desperately against the line of levelled spears, rather
than continue a long and weary struggle under apparently hopeless
The chiefs, hearing from Archie that he had acted as one of Wallace's
lieutenants in battles where the English had been heavily defeated,
willingly consented that he should endeavour to instil the tactics
by which those battles had been won into their own followers; but
when they found that he proposed that the men should remain stationary
to withstand the English charges, they shook their heads.
"That will never do for our people," they said. "They must attack
sword in hand. They will rush fearlessly down against any odds, but
you will never get them steadily to withstand a charge of men-at-arms."
Archie, however, persuaded them to allow him to organize a band of
two hundred men under his immediate orders. These were armed with
long pikes, and were to form a sort of reserve, in order that if
the wild charge of the main body failed in its object these could
cover a retreat, or serve as a nucleus around which they could
rally. The army swelled rapidly; every day fresh chiefs arrived
with scores of wild tribesmen. Presently the news came that an
English force was advancing from the Pale against them. A council
was held at which Archie was present. Very strongly he urged his
views upon the chieftains, namely: that they should altogether
decline a pitched battle; but that, divided into numerous parties,
they should enter the Pale, destroying weak garrisons and ravaging
the country, trying to wear out the English by constant skirmishes
and night attacks, but refusing always to allow themselves to be
tempted into an engagement.
"The English cannot be everywhere at once," he urged. "Let them
hold only the ground on which their feet stand. As they advance
or retire, close ever in on their rear, drive off their cattle and
destroy their crops and granaries in the Pale; force them to live
wholly in their walled towns, and as you gain in strength capture
these one by one, as did we in Scotland. So, and so only, can you
hope for ultimate success."
His advice was received with a silence which he at once saw betokened
disapproval. One after another of the Irish chieftains rose and
declared that such a war could not be sustained.
"Our retainers," they said, "are ready to fight, but after fighting
they will want to return to their homes; besides, we are fifteen
thousand strong, and the English men-at-arms marching against us
are but eight hundred; it would be shameful and cowardly to avoid a
battle, and were we willing to do so our followers would not obey
us. Let us first destroy this body of English, then we shall be
joined by others, and can soon march straight upon Dublin."
Archie saw that it was hopeless to persevere, and set out the
following day with the wild rabble, for they could not be termed
an army, to meet the English. The leaders yielded so far to his
advice as to take up a position where they would fight with the best
chance of success. The spot lay between a swamp extending a vast
distance, and a river, and they were thus open only to an attack
in front, and could, if defeated, take refuge in the bog, where
horsemen could not follow them.
On the following morning the English were seen approaching. In
addition to the 800 men-at-arms were 1000 lightly equipped footmen,
for experience had taught the English commanders that in such a
country lightly armed men were necessary to operate where the wide
extending morasses prevented the employment of cavalry. The English
advanced in solid array: 300 archers led the way; these were
followed by 700 spearmen, and the men-at-arms brought up the rear.
The Irish were formed in disordered masses, each under its own
chieftain. The English archers commenced the fight with a shower
of arrows. Scarcely had these began to fall when the Irish with a
tremendous yell rushed forward to the assault. The English archers
were swept like chaff before them. With reckless bravery they threw
themselves next upon the spearmen. The solid array was broken by
the onslaught, and in a moment both parties were mixed up in wild
The sight was too much for Archie's band to view unmoved, and these,
in spite of his shouts, left their ground and rushed at full speed
after their companions and threw themselves into the fight.
Archie was mounted, having been presented with a horse by one of
the chiefs, and he now, although hopeless of the final result, rode
forward. Just as he joined the confused and struggling mass the
English men-at-arms burst down upon them. As a torrent would cleave
its way through a mass of loose sand, so the English men-at-arms
burst through the mass of Irish, trampling and cutting down all in
their path. Not unharmed, however, for the Irish fought desperately
with axe and knife, hewing at the men-at-arms, stabbing at the
horses, and even trying by sheer strength to throw the riders to
the ground. After passing through the mass the men-at-arms turned
and again burst down upon them. It was a repetition of the first
charge. The Irish fought desperately, but it was each for himself;
there was neither order nor cohesion, and each man strove only to
kill a foe before being himself slain. Archie and the chiefs, with
the few mounted men among the retainers, strove in vain to stem
the torrent. Under the orders of their leaders the English kept
in a compact mass, and the weight of the horses and armour bore
down all opposition. Four times did the men-at-arms burst through
the struggling mass of Irish. As they formed to charge the fifth
time the latter lost heart, and as if acting under a simultaneous
influence they turned and fled.
The English horse burst down on the rear of the mass of fugitives,
hewing them down in hundreds. Those nearest to the river dashed in,
and numbers were drowned in striving to cross it. The main body,
however, made for the swamp, and though in the crush many sank in
and perished miserably here, the great majority, leaping lightly
from tuft to tuft, gained the heart of the morass, the pursuing
horse reining up on its edge.
Ronald had kept near Archie in the fight, and when all was lost
ran along by the side of his horse, holding fast to the stirrup
leather. The horsemen still pressed along between the river and
the morass, and Archie, following the example of several of the
chiefs, alighted from his saddle, and with his companion entered
the swamp. It was with the greatest difficulty that he made his
way across it, and his lightly armed companion did him good service
in assisting several times to drag him from the treacherous mire
when he began to sink in it. At last they reached firmer ground in
the heart of the swamp, and here some 5000 or 6000 fugitives were
gathered. At least 4000 had fallen on the field. Many had escaped
across the river, although numbers had lost their lives in the
attempt. Others scattered and fled in various directions. A few
of the chiefs were gathered in council when Archie arrived. They
agreed that all was lost and there was nothing to do but scatter
to their homes. Archie took no part in the discussion. That day's
experience had convinced him that nothing like a permanent and
determined insurrection was possible, and only by such a movement
could the Scottish cause be aided, by forcing the English to send
reinforcements across St. George's Channel. After seeing the
slaughter which had taken place, he was rejoiced at heart that the
rising had commenced before he joined it, and was in no way the
result of his mission, but was one of the sporadic insurrections
which frequently broke out in Ireland, only to be instantly and
"We have failed, Sir Knight," one of the chiefs said to him, "but
it was not for want of courage on the part of our men."
"No, indeed," Archie replied through his interpreter; "never did I
see men fight more fiercely, but without discipline and organization
victory is well nigh impossible for lightly armed footmen against
heavy mailclad cavalry."
"The tactics you advised were doubtless good," the chief said; "I
see their wisdom, but they are well nigh impossible to carry out
with such following as ours. They are ever impatient for the fray,
but quickly wearied by effort; ready to die, but not to wait; to
them prudence means cowardice, and their only idea of fighting is
to rush full at a foe. See how they broke the English spearmen!"
"It was right well done," Archie replied, "and some day, when well
trained and disciplined, Irish soldiers will be second to none in
the world; but unless they will submit to training and discipline
they can never hope to conquer the English."
"And now, Sir Knight, what do you propose doing?" the chief said.
"I shall make my way north," Archie replied, "and shall rejoin my
king at Rathlin."
"I will send two of my men with you. They know every foot of the
morasses of this neighbourhood, and when they get beyond the point
familiar to them will procure you two others to take their places.
It will need all your prudence and courage to get through, for
the English men-at-arms will be scouring the country in groups of
four, hunting all those they come across like wolves. See, already!"
and he pointed to the horizon; "they are scattering round the edge
of the morass to inclose us here; but it is many miles round, and
before tomorrow is gone not a man will be left here."
When darkness fell, Archie, accompanied by Ronald and his guides,
set out on his journey. Alone he could never have found his way
through the swamps, but even in the darkness his guides moved along
quickly, following tracks known to them with the instinct of hounds;
Archie kept close on their heels, as a step only a few inches from
the track might plunge him in a deep morass, in which in a few
seconds he would sink out of sight. On nearing the edge of the
bog the guides slackened their pace. Motioning to Archie to remain
where he was, they crept forward noiselessly into the darkness.
Not far off he could hear the calls of the English horsemen. The
sounds were repeated again and again until they died away in the
distance, showing that a cordon had been drawn round the morass so
as to inclose the fugitives from the battle of the previous day.
In a quarter of an hour the guides returned as noiselessly as they
had departed, and Archie continued the march at their heels. Even
greater caution than before was now necessary in walking, for the
English, before darkness had set in, had narrowly examined the edge
of the morass, and had placed three or four men wherever they could
discover the slightest signs of a track. Thus Archie's guides were
obliged to leave the path by which they had previously travelled.
Their progress was slow now, the party only moving for a few yards
at a time, and then halting while the guides searched for ground
solid enough to carry their weight. At last Archie felt the ground
grow firmer under his foot, and a reconnaissance by the guides
having shown them that none of the English were stationed opposite
to them, they left the morass, and noiselessly made their way across
the country until far beyond the English line.
All night they walked, and at daybreak entered another swamp, and
lay down for the day in the long coarse grass growing on a piece of
firm ground deep in its recesses. In the evening one of the guides
stole out and returned with a native of the neighbourhood, who
undertook to show Archie the way on his further journey.
Ten days, or rather nights, of steady journeying brought Archie
again to the rocky shore where he had landed. Throughout he had
found faithful guides, whom he had rewarded by giving, as was often
the custom of the time, in lieu of money, a link or two of one of
his gold chains. He and Ronald again took refuge in the cave where
they had passed the first night of their landing. It was untenanted
Here they abode for a fortnight, Ronald going up every two or three
days to purchase provisions at the scattered cottages. On Saturday
night they lit a great fire just inside the mouth of the cave, so
that while the flames could be seen far out at sea the light would
be unobserved by the garrison of Dunluce or any straggler on the
cliff above. It had been arranged with Duncan that every Saturday
night, weather permitting, he should sail across and look for
a signal fire. The first Saturday night was wild and stormy, and
although they lit the fire they had but slight idea that Duncan
would put out. The following week, however, the night was calm and
bright, and after piling up the fire high they proceeded to the
causeway, and two hours later saw to their joy a boat approaching.
In a few minutes they were on board, and by the following morning
The king and his companions welcomed Archie's return warmly,
although the report which he made showed that there was no hope of
obtaining any serious diversion of the English attack by a permanent
rising in Ireland; and the king, on hearing Archie's account of
all that had passed, assured him that he felt that, although he had
failed, no one, under the circumstances, could have done otherwise.
Chapter XVII The King's Blood Hound
The only other event which occurred throughout the winter was the
arrival of a fishing boat with a messenger from one of the king's
adherents, and the news which he brought filled them with sorrow
and dismay. Kildrummy had been threatened with a siege, and the
queen, Bruce's sisters Christine and Mary, his daughter Marjory,
and the other ladies accompanying them, deemed it prudent to leave
the castle and take refuge in the sanctuary of St. Duthoc, in Ross
The sanctuary was violated by the Earl of Ross and his followers,
and the ladies and their escort delivered up to Edward's lieutenants
and sent to England. The knights and squires who formed the escort
were all executed, and the ladies committed to various places
of confinement, where most of them remained in captivity of the
strictest and most rigorous kind until after the battle of Bannockburn,
eight years later. The Countess of Buchan, who had crowned Bruce
at Scone, and who was one of the party captured at St. Duthoc,
received even fouler treatment, by Edward's especial orders,
being placed in a cage on one of the turrets of Berwick Castle so
constructed that she could be seen by all who passed; and in this
cruel imprisonment she was kept like a wild beast for seven long
years by a Christian king whom his admirers love to hold up as a
model of chivalry.
Kildrummy had been besieged and taken by treachery. The king's
brother, Nigel Bruce, was carried to Berwick, and was there hanged
and beheaded. Christopher Seaton and his brother Alexander, the
Earl of Athole, Sir Simon Fraser, Sir Herbert de Moreham, Sir David
Inchmartin, Sir John Somerville, Sir Walter Logan, and many other
Scotchmen of noble degree, had also been captured and executed,
their only offence being that they had fought for their country.
In all the annals of England there is no more disgraceful page than
that which chronicles the savage ferocity with which King Edward
behaved to the Scottish nobles and ladies who fell into his hands.
The news of these murders excited the utmost fury as well as grief
among the party at Rathlin, and only increased their determination
to fight till the death against the power of England.
The spring was now at hand, and Douglas, with Archie Forbes and
a few followers, left in a boat, and landed on the Isle of Arran.
In the bay of Brodick was a castle occupied by Sir John Hastings
and an English garrison. The Scots concealed themselves near the
castle, awaiting an opportunity for an attack. A day or two after
their arrival several vessels arrived with provisions and arms for
the garrison. As these were being landed Douglas and his followers
sallied out and captured the vessels and stores. The garrison of
the castle made a sortie to assist their friends, but were driven
in with slaughter, and the whole of the supplies remained in the
hands of the Scots, causing great rejoicing to the king and the
rest of the party when a few days later they arrived from Rathlin.
Bruce now proposed an immediate descent upon Carrick, there, in the
midst of his family possessions, to set up his banner in Scotland.
The lands had been forfeited by Edward and bestowed upon some of
his own nobles. Annandale had been given to the Earl of Hereford,
Carrick to Earl Percy, Selkirk to Aymer de Valence. The castle of
Turnberry was occupied by Percy with three hundred men. Bruce sent
on his cousin Cuthbert to reconnoitre and see whether the people
would be ready to rise, but Cuthbert found the Scots sunk in
despair. All who had taken up arms had perished in the field or
on the scaffold. The country swarmed with the English, and further
resistance seemed hopeless. Cuthbert had arranged to light a beacon
on a point at Turnberry visible at Lamlash Bay in Arran, where the
king, with his two hundred men and eighty-three boats, awaited the
sight of the smoke which should tell them that circumstances were
favourable for their landing.
Cuthbert, finding that there was no chance of a rising, did not
light the bonfire; but as if fortune was determined that Bruce
should continue a struggle which was to end finally in the freedom
of Scotland, some other person lit a fire on the very spot where
Cuthbert had arranged to show the signal. On seeing the smoke the
king and his party at once got into their boats and rowed across
to the mainland, a distance of seventeen miles. On reaching land
they were met by Cuthbert, who reported that the fire was not of his
kindling, and that the circumstances were altogether unfavourable.
Bruce consulted with his brother Edward, Douglas, Archie, and his
principal friends as to what course had better be pursued. Edward
declared at once that he for one would not take to sea again; and
this decision settled the matter.
The king without delay led his followers against the village
outside the castle, where a considerable portion of the garrison
were housed. These were assailed so suddenly that all save one
were slain. Those in the castle heard the sounds of the conflict,
but being unaware of the smallness of the assailant's force, did
not venture to sally out to their assistance.
Percy, with his followers, remained shut up in the castle, while
Bruce overran the neighbouring country; but an English force under
Sir Roger St. John, far too powerful to be resisted, advanced to
Turnberry, and Bruce and his followers were obliged to seek refuge
in the hills. Thomas and Alexander, the king's brothers, with Sir
Reginald Crawford, had gone to the islands to beat up recruits, and
returning in a vessel with a party who had joined them, landed at
Loch Ryan. They were attacked at once by Macdowall, a chieftain
of Galloway, and routed. The king's brothers, with Sir Reginald
Crawford, were carried to Carlisle severely wounded, and delivered
over to King Edward, who at once sent them to the scaffold.
These wholesale and barbarous executions saddened the Scots, and,
as might be expected, soon roused them to severe reprisals. Bruce
himself, however, although deeply stirred by the murder of his
three brothers and many dear friends, and by the captivity and
harsh treatment of his wife and female relatives, never attempted
to take vengeance for them upon those who fell into his hands,
and during the whole of the war in no single instance did he put a
prisoner to death. He carried magnanimity, indeed, almost to the
extent of impolicy; for had the nobles of England found that those
of their number who fell into Bruce's hands suffered the penalty
of death, which Edward inflicted upon the Scotch prisoners, they
would probably have remonstrated with the king and insisted upon
his conducting the war in a less barbarous and ferocious fashion.
Sir James Douglas was so stirred by the murder of the three Bruces and
so many of his friends and companions, that he resolved henceforth
to wage an exterminating war against the English, and by the recapture
of his own stronghold, known as Castle Douglas, began the series
of desperate deeds which won for him the name of the Black Douglas,
and rendered his name for generations a terror among the English on
the Border. The castle had been conferred by Edward on Sir Robert
de Clifford, and was occupied by an English garrison. Douglas
revealed his intention only to Archie Forbes, who at once agreed
to accompany him. He asked leave from the king to quit their hiding
place for a time, accompanied by Archie, in order to revisit Douglas
Hall, and see how it fared with his tenants and friends. The king
acquiesced with difficulty, as he thought the expedition a dangerous
one, and feared that the youth and impetuosity of Douglas might lead
him into danger; before consenting he strongly urged on Archie to
keep a strict watch over the doings of the young noble.
Accompanied by but one retainer, the friends set out for Douglasdale.
When they arrived there Douglas went to the cottage of an old and
faithful servant named Thomas Dickson, by whom he was joyfully
received. Dickson went out among the retainers and revealed to such
as could be most surely depended upon the secret of their lord's
presence, and one by one took them in to see him. The friends
had already determined upon their course, and the retainers all
promised to take part in the scheme. They were not numerous enough
to assault the castle openly, but they chose the following Sunday
for the assault. This was Palm Sunday and a festival, and most of
the garrison would come to the Church of St. Bride, in the village
of the same name, a short distance from the castle.
Dickson with some of his friends went at the appointed time, with
arms concealed under their clothes, to the church; and after the
service had commenced Douglas and some of his followers gathered
outside. Unfortunately for the plan, some of those outside set
up the shout, "A Douglas!" prematurely before the whole party had
arrived and were ready to rush into the church. Dickson with his
friends at once drew out their arms and attacked the English; but
being greatly outnumbered and for a time unsupported, most of them,
including their leader, were slain. Sir James and his followers then
fought their way in, and after a desperate fight all the garrison
save ten were killed.
The party then proceeded to the castle, which they captured without
resistance. Douglas and his companions partook of the dinner which
had been prepared for the garrison; then as much money, weapons,
armour, and clothing as they could carry away was taken from the
castle. The whole of the vast stores of provisions were carried
into the cellar, the heads struck out of the ale and wine casks,
the prisoners were slain and their bodies thrown down into the mass,
and the castle was then set on fire. Archie Forbes in vain begged
Douglas to spare the lives of the prisoners, but the latter would
not listen to him. "No, Sir Archie," he exclaimed; "the King of
England held my good father a prisoner in chains until he died;
he has struck off the heads of every one of our friends who have
fallen into his hands; he has wasted Scotland from end to end with
fire and sword, and has slain our people in tens of thousands. So
long as this war continues, so long will I slay every prisoner who
falls into my hands, as King Edward would slay me did I fall into
his; and I will not desist unless this cruel king agrees to show
quarter to such of us as he may capture. I see not why all the
massacreing and bloodshed should be upon one side."
Archie did not urge him further, for he too was half beside himself
with indignation and grief at the murder of the king's brothers
and friends, and at the cruel captivity which, by a violation of
the laws of sanctuary, had fallen upon the ladies with whom he had
spent so many happy hours in the mountains and forests of Athole.
Douglas and Archie now rejoined the king. For months Bruce led
the life of a hunted fugitive. His little following dwindled away
until but sixty men remained in arms. Of these a portion were
with the king's brother in Galloway, and with but a handful of men
Bruce was lying among the fastnesses of Carrick when Sir Ingram
de Umfraville, with a large number of troops sent by the Earl of
Pembroke from Edinburgh, approached. Wholly unable to resist so
large a force, Bruce's little party scattered, and the king himself,
attended only by a page, lay hidden in the cottage of a peasant.
The English in vain searched for him, until a traitorous Scot went
to Umfraville and offered, for a reward of a grant of land to the
value of 40 pounds annually, to slay Bruce.
The offer was accepted, and the traitor and his two sons made their
way to Bruce's place of concealment. As they approached, Bruce
snatched his bow from his page and shot the traitor through the
eye. One son attacked him with an axe, but was slain with a blow
from the king's sword. The remaining assailant rushed at him with
a spear; but the king with one blow cut off the spearhead, and
before the assailant had time to draw his sword, stretched him
dead at his feet. After this the king with his adherents eluded
the search of the English and made their way into Galloway. The
people here who were devoted to the English cause determined to hunt
him down, and two hundred men, accompanied by some blood hounds,
set off towards the king's retreat; but Bruce's scouts were on
the watch and brought him news of their coming. The king with his
party retired until they reached a morass, through which flowed a
running stream, while beyond a narrow passage led through a deep
Beyond this point the hunted party lay down to rest, while the
king with two followers returned to the river to keep watch. After
listening for some time they heard the baying of the hounds coming
nearer and nearer, and then, by the light of a bright moon, saw
their enemies approaching.
The king sent his two followers to rouse the band. The enemy,
seeing Bruce alone, pressed forward with all haste; and the king,
knowing that if he retired his followers would be attacked unprepared,
determined alone to defend the narrow path. He retired from the
river bank to the spot where the path was narrowest and the morass
most impassable, and then drew his sword. His pursuers, crossing
the river, rode forward against him; Bruce charged the first, and
with his lance slew him; then with a blow with his mace he stretched
his horse beside him, blocking the narrow passage. One by one his
foes advanced, and five fell beneath his blows, before his companions
ran up from behind. The Galloway men then took to flight, but nine
more were slain before they could cross the ford.
The admiration and confidence of Bruce's followers were greatly
aroused by this new proof of his courage and prowess. Sir James
Douglas, his brother Edward, and others soon afterwards returned
from the expeditions on which they had been sent, and the king
had now 400 men assembled. This force, however, was powerless to
resist an army of English and Lowland Scots who marched against
him, led by Pembroke in person. This force was accompanied by John,
son of Alexander MacDougall of Lorne, with 800 of his mountaineers.
While the heavy armed troops occupied all the Lowlands, Lorne and
his followers made a circuit in the mountains so as to inclose the
royal fugitive between them.
Bruce, seeing that resistance was impossible, caused his party to
separate into three divisions, and Douglas, Edward Bruce, and Sir
Archibald Forbes were charged to lead their bands, if possible,
through the enemy without fighting. The king tried to escape by a
different route with a handful of men. John of Lorne had obtained
from Turnberry a favourite blood hound belonging to Bruce, and
the hound being put upon the trace persistently followed the king's
party. Seeing this, Bruce ordered them all to disperse, and,
accompanied only by his foster brother, attempted to escape by
As they sped along the mountain side they were seen by Lorne, who
directed his henchman, with four of his bravest and swiftest men,
to follow him. After a long chase the MacDougalls came up with
Bruce and his foster brother, who drew their swords and stood on the
defence. The henchman, with two of his followers, attacked Bruce,
while the other two fell on his foster brother. The combat was a
desperate one, but one by one the king cut down his three assailants,
and then turned to the assistance of his foster brother, who
was hardly pressed. The king's sword soon rid him of one of his
assailants, and he slew the other. Having thus disembarrassed
themselves of the whole of their immediate assailants, Bruce and his
companion continued their flight. The main body of their hunters,
with the hound, were but a short distance away, but in a wood the
fugitives came upon a stream, and, marching for some distance down
this, again landed, and continued their flight.
The hound lost their scent at the spot where they had entered the
water, and being unable to recover it, Lorne and his followers
abandoned the chase. Among the king's pursuers on this occasion
was his nephew Randolph, who had been captured at the battle of
Methven, and having again taken the oath of allegiance to Edward
had been restored to that monarch's favour, and was now fighting
among the English ranks.
The search was actively kept up after Bruce, and a party of three
men-at-arms came upon him and his foster brother. Being afraid to
attack the king, whom they recognized, openly, they pretended they
had come to join him.
The king suspected treachery; and when the five lay down for the
night in a cottage which they came upon he and his companion agreed
to watch alternately. Overcome by fatigue, however, both fell asleep,
and when they were suddenly attacked by the three strangers, the
foster brother was killed before he could offer any resistance.
The king himself, although wounded, managed to struggle to his
feet, and then proved more than a match for his three treacherous
assailants, all of whom, after a desperate struggle, he slew.
The next morning he continued his way, and by nightfall succeeded
in joining the three bands, who had safely reached the rendezvous
he had appointed.
A few hours after this exploit of Bruce, Archie with two or three
of his followers joined him.
"This is indeed a serious matter of the hound," Archie said when
Bruce told him how nearly he had fallen a victim to the affection
of his favourite. "Methinks, sire, so long as he remains in the
English hands your life will never be safe, for the dog will always
lead the searchers to your hiding places; if one could get near
enough to shoot him, the danger would be at an end."
"I would not have him shot, Archie, for a large sum. I have had him
since he was a little pup; he has for years slept across my door,
and would give his life for mine. `Tis but his affection now that
brings danger upon me."
"I should be sorry to see the dog killed myself," Archie said, "for
he is a fine fellow, and he quite admitted me to his friendship
during the time we were together. Still, sire, if it were a question
between their lives and yours, I would not hesitate to kill any
number of dogs. The whole future of Scotland is wrapped up in you;
and as there is not one of your followers but would gladly give
his life for yours, it were no great thing that a hound should do
"I cannot withstand you in argument, Archie," the king said smiling;
"yet I would fain that my favourite should, if possible, be spared.
But I grant you, should there be no other way, and the hound should
continue to follow me, he must be put to death. But it would grieve
me sorely. I have lost so many and so dear friends in the last
year, that I can ill spare one of the few that are left me."
Archie was himself fond of dogs, and knowing how attached Bruce
was to his faithful hound he could quite understand how reluctant
he was that harm should come to him. Still, he felt it was necessary
that the dog should, at all hazards, be either killed or taken
from the English, for if he remained in their hands he was almost
certain sooner or later to lead to Bruce's capture. He determined
then to endeavour to avert the danger by abstracting the dog from
the hands of the English, or, failing that, by killing him. To do
this it would be absolutely necessary to enter the English camp.
There was no possibility of carrying out his purpose without running
this risk, for when in pursuit of the king the hound would be held
by a leash, and there would be many men-at-arms close by, so that
the difficulty of shooting him would be extremely great, and Archie
could see no plan save that of boldly entering the camp.
He said nothing of his project to Bruce, who would probably have
refused to allow him to undertake it; but the next morning when
he parted from him -- for it was considered advisable that the
fugitives should be divided into the smallest groups, and that only
one or two of his retainers should remain with Bruce -- he started
with his own followers in the direction of Pembroke's camp. He
presently changed clothes with one of these, and they then collected
a quantity of firewood and made it into a great faggot. Archie gave
them orders where they should await him, and lifting the faggot on
his shoulders boldly entered the camp. He passed with it near the
pavilion of Pembroke. The earl was standing with some knights at
"Come hither, Scot," he said as Archie passed.
Archie laid his bundle on the ground, and doffing his bonnet strode
with an awkward and abashed air toward the earl.
"I suppose you are one of Bruce's men?" the earl said.
"My father," Archie replied, "as well as all who dwell in these
dales, were his vassals; but seeing that, as they say, his lands
have been forfeit and given to others, I know not whose man I am
"Dost know Bruce by figure?"
"Surely," Archie said simply, "seeing that I was employed in the
stables at Turnberry, and used to wash that big hound of his, who
was treated as a Christian rather than a dog."
"Oh, you used to tend the hound!" Pembroke said. "Then perhaps
you could manage him now. He is here in camp, and the brute is so
savage and fierce he has already well nigh killed two or three men;
and I would have had him shot but that he may be useful to us. If
he knows you he may be quieter with you than others."
"Doubtless he would know me," Archie said; "but seeing that I have
the croft to look after, as my father is old and infirm, I trust
that you will excuse me the service of looking after the hound."
"Answer me not," Pembroke said angrily. "You may think yourself
lucky, seeing that you are one of Bruce's retainers, that I do not
have you hung from a tree.
"Take the fellow to the hound," he said to one of his retainers,
"and see if the brute recognizes him; if so, put him in charge of
him for the future. And see you Scot, that you attempt no tricks,
for if you try to escape I will hang you without shrift."
Archie followed the earl's retainer to where, behind his pavilion,
the great dog was chained up. He leapt to his feet with a savage
growl on hearing footsteps approaching. His hair bristled and he
tugged at his chain.
"What a savage beast it is!" the man said; "I would sooner face
a whole company of you Scots than get within reach of his jaws.
Dickon," he went on as another soldier, on hearing the growl, issued
from one of the smaller tents which stood in rear of the pavilion,
"the earl has sent this Scot to relieve you of your charge of the
dog; he is to have the care of him in future."
"That is the best turn the earl has done me for a long time," the
man replied. "Never did I have a job I fancied less than the tending
of that evil tempered brute."
"He did not use to be evil tempered," Archie said; "but was a quiet
beast when I had to do with him before. I suppose the strangeness
of the place and so many strange faces have driven him half wild.
Beside, he is not used to being chained up. Hector, old fellow,"
he said approaching the dog quietly, "don't you know me?"
The great hound recognized the voice and his aspect changed
at once. The bristling hair lay flat on his back; the threatening
jaws closed. He gave a short deep bark of pleasure, and then began
leaping and tugging at his chain to reach his acquaintance. Archie
came close to him now. Hector reared on his hind legs, and placed
his great paws on his shoulders, and licked his face with whines
"He knows you, sure enough," the man said; "and maybe we shall get
on better now. At any rate there may be some chance of sleep, for
the brute's howls every night since he has been brought here have
kept the whole camp awake."
"No wonder!" Archie said, "when he has been accustomed to be petted
and cared for; he resents being chained up."
"Would you unchain him?" the man asked.
"That would I," Archie replied; "and I doubt not that he will stay
"It may be so," the man replied; "but you had best not unchain him
without leave from the earl, for were he to take it into his head
to run away, I would not give a groat for your life. But I will go
and acquaint the earl that the dog knows you, and ask his orders
as to his being unchained."
In two or three minutes he returned.
"The earl says that on no account is he to be let free. He has told
me to have a small tent pitched here for you. The hound is to be
chained to the post, and to share the tent with you. You may, if
you will, walk about the camp with him, but always keeping him in
a chain; but if you do so it will be at your peril, for if he gets
away your life will answer for it."
In a short time two or three soldiers brought a small tent and
erected it close by where the dog was chained up. Archie unloosed
the chain from the post round which it was fastened, and led
Hector to the tent, the dog keeping close by his side and wagging
his tail gravely, as if to show his appreciation of the change, to
the satisfaction of the men to whom hitherto he had been a terror.
Some heather was brought for a bed, and a supply of food, both
for the dog and his keeper, and the men then left the two friends
alone. Hector was sitting up on his haunches gazing affectionately
at Archie, his tail beating the ground with slow and regular strokes.
"I know what you want to ask, old fellow," Archie said to him; "why
I don't lead you at once to your master? Don't you be impatient,
old fellow, and you shall see him ere long;" and he patted the
Hector, with a great sigh expressive of content and satisfaction,
lay down on the ground by the side of the couch of heather on which
Archie threw himself -- his nose between his forepaws, clearly
expressing that he considered his troubles were over, and could now
afford to wait until in due time he should be taken to his master.
That night the camp slept quietly, for Hector was silent. For the
next two days Archie did not go more than a few yards from his tent,
for he feared that he might meet some one who would recognize him.
Chapter XVIII The Hound Restored
On the third day after his arrival at the camp Archie received
orders to prepare to start with the hound, with the earl and a large
party of men-at-arms, in search of Bruce. A traitor had just come
in and told them where Bruce had slept the night before. Reluctantly
Archie unfastened the chain from the pole, and holding the end in
his hand went round with Hector to the front of the pavilion. He
was resolved that if under the dog's guidance the party came close
up with Bruce, he would kill the dog and then try to escape by
fleetness of foot, though of this, as there were so many mounted
men in the party, he had but slight hope. Led by the peasant they
proceeded to the hut, which was five miles away in the hills. On
reaching it Hector at once became greatly excited. He sniffed
here and there, eagerly hunted up and down the cottage, then made
a circuit round it, and at last, with a loud deep bay he started
off with his nose to the ground, pulling so hard at the chain that
Archie had difficulty in keeping up with him. Pembroke and his
knights rode a little behind, followed by their men-at-arms.
"I pray you, Sir Earl," Archie said, "keep not too close to my
traces, for the sound of the horse's hoofs and the jingling of the
equipments make him all the more impatient to get forward, and even
now it taxes all my strength to hold him in."
The earl reined back his horse and followed at a distance of some
fifty yards. He had no suspicion whatever of any hidden design
on Archie's part. The fact that the hound had recognized him had
appeared to him a sure proof of the truth of his tale, and Archie
had put on an air of such stupid simplicity that the earl deemed
him to have but imperfect possession of his wits. Moreover, in any
case he could overtake him in case he attempted flight.
Archie proceeded at a trot behind the hound, who was with
difficulty restrained at that pace, straining eagerly on the chain
and occasionally sending out his deep bay. Archie anxiously regarded
the country through which he was passing. He was waiting for an
opportunity, and was determined, whenever they passed near a steep
hillside unscaleable by horsemen, he would stab Hector to the heart
and take to flight. Presently he saw a man, whose attire showed
him to be a Highlander, approaching at a run; he passed close by
Archie, and as he did so stopped suddenly, exclaiming, "Archibald
Forbes!" and drawing his broadsword sprang at him. Archie, who was
unarmed save by a long knife, leapt back. In the man he recognized
the leader of the MacDougall's party, who had captured him near
Dunstaffnage. The conflict would have terminated in an instant had
not Hector intervened. Turning round with a deep growl the great
hound sprang full at the throat of the Highlander as with uplifted
sword he rushed at Archie. The impetus of the spring threw the
MacDougall on his back, with the fangs of the hound fixed in his
throat. Archie's first impulse was to pull the dog off, the second
thought showed him that, were the man to survive he would at once
denounce him. Accordingly, though he appeared to tug hard at Hector's
chain, he in reality allowed him to have his way. Pembroke and his
knights instantly galloped up. As they arrived Hector loosed his
hold, and with his hair bristly with rage prepared to attack those
whom he regarded as fresh enemies.
"Hold in that hound," Pembroke shouted, "or he will do more damage.
What means all this?" For a minute Archie did not answer, being
engaged in pacifying Hector, who, on seeing that no harm was
intended, strove to return to his first foe.
"It means," Archie said, when Hector was at last pacified, "that
that Highlander came the other day to our cottage and wanted to
carry off a cow without making payment for it. I withstood him,
he drew his sword, but as I had a stout cudgel in my hand I hit him
on the wrist ere he could use it, and well nigh broke his arm. So
he made off, cursing and swearing, and vowing that the next time
he met me he would have my life."
"And that he would have done," Pembroke said, "had it not been
for Bruce's dog, who has turned matters the other way. He is dead
assuredly. It is John of Lorne's henchman, who was doubtless on
his way with a message from his lord to me. Could not the fool have
postponed his grudge till he had delivered it? I tell you, Scot,
you had best keep out of the MacDougalls' way, for assuredly they
will revenge the death of their clansman upon you if they have
the chance, though I can testify that the affair was none of your
seeking. Now let us continue our way."
"I doubt me, Sir Earl, whether our journey ends not here," Archie
said, "seeing that these hounds, when they taste blood, seem for
a time to lose their fineness of scent; but we shall see."
Archie's opinion turned out correct. Do what they would they could
not induce Hector again to take up his master's trail, the hound
again and again returning to the spot where the dead Highlander
still lay. Pembroke had the body carried off but the hound tugged
at his chain in the direction in which it had gone, and seemed to
have lost all remembrance of the track upon which he was going.
At last Pembroke was obliged to acknowledge that it was useless to
pursue longer, and, full of disappointment at their failure, the
party returned to camp, Pembroke saying: "Our chase is but postponed.
We are sure to get tidings of Bruce's hiding place in a day or two,
and next time we will have the hound muzzled, lest any hotheaded
Highlander should again interfere to mar the sport."
It was some days before further tidings were obtained of Bruce.
Archie did not leave his tent during this time, giving as a reason
that he was afraid if he went out he should meet some of Lorne's
men, who might take up the quarrel of the man who had been killed.
At length, however, another traitor came in, and Pembroke and his
party set out as before, Hector being this time muzzled by a strap
round his jaw, which would not interfere with his scent, but would
prevent him from widely opening his jaws.
The scent of Bruce was again taken up at a lonely hut in the hills.
The country was far more broken and rough than that through which
they had followed Bruce's trail on the preceding occasion. Again
Archie determined, but most reluctantly, that he would slay the
noble dog; but he determined to postpone the deed to the latest
moment. Several places were passed where he might have succeeded
in effecting his escape after stabbing the hound, but each time his
determination failed him. It would have been of no use to release
the dog and make himself up the hillside, for a blood hound's pace
when on the track is not rapid, and the horsemen could have kept
up with Hector, who would of course have continued his way upon
the trail of the king. Presently two men were seen in the distance;
they had evidently been alarmed by the bay of the hound, and were
going at full speed. A shout of triumph broke from the pursuers,
and some of the more eager would have set spurs to their horses
and passed the hound.
"Rein back, rein back," Pembroke said, "the country is wild and
hilly here, and Bruce may hide himself long before you can overtake
him. Keep steadily in his track till he gains flatter country, where
we can keep him in sight, then we shall have no more occasion for
the hound and can gallop on at full speed."
Archie observed, with satisfaction, that Bruce was making up an
extremely steep hillside, deeming probably that horsemen would be
unable to follow him here, and that he would be able to distance
pursuers on foot. Ten minutes later his pursuers had reached the
foot of the hill. Pembroke at once ordered four knights and ten
men-at-arms to dismount.
"Do you," he said, "with the dog, follow hard upon the traces of
Bruce. When you reach the top signal to us the direction in which
he has gone. Follow ever on his track without stopping; he must at
last take to the low country again. Some of my men shall remain
here, others a mile further on, and so on round the whole foot of
the hills. Do you, when you see that, thinking he has distanced
you, which he may well do being more lightly armed and flying for
his life, he makes for the low country again, send men in different
directions to give me warning. The baying of the dog will act as
a signal to us."
While the men had been dismounting and Pembroke was giving his
orders Archie had proceeded up the hill with the hound. The path
was exceedingly steep and difficult.
"Do not hurry, sirrah," Pembroke called; "hold in your hound till
the others join you." But Archie paid no attention to the shout,
but kept up the steep path at the top of his speed. Shouts and
threats followed him, but he paused not till he reached the top
of the ascent; then he unfastened Hector's collar, and the dog,
relieved from the chain which had so long restrained him, bounded
away with a deep bay in pursuit of his master, whose scent was now
strong before him. As Archie looked back, the four knights and
their followers, in single file, were, as yet, scarce halfway up
the ascent. Lying round were numbers of loose boulders, and Archie
at once began to roll these down the hillside. They went but slowly
at first, but as they reached the steeper portion they gathered
speed, and taking great bounds crashed down the hillside. As these
formidable missiles burst down from above the knights paused.
"On!" Pembroke shouted from below; "the Scot is a traitor, and he
and the hound will escape if you seize him not." Again the party
hurried up the hill. Three of them were struck down by the rocks,
and the speed of all was impeded by the pauses made to avoid the
great boulders which bounded down toward them. When they were
within a few yards of the top Archie turned and bounded off at full
speed. He had no fear of being himself overtaken. Lightly clad and
unarmed, the knights and men-at-arms, who were all in full armour,
and who were already breathed with the exertions they had made,
would have no chance of overtaking him; indeed he could safely have
fled at once when he loosed Hector, but he had stopped to delay the
ascent of his pursuers solely to give the hound as long a start
as possible. He himself could have kept up with the hound; the
men-at-arms could assuredly not do so, but they might for a long
time keep him in sight, and his baying would afterwards indicate
the line the king was taking, and Bruce might yet be cut off by
the mounted men. The delay which his bombardment had caused had
given a long start to the hound, for it was more than five minutes
from the time when it had been loosed before the pursuers gained
the crest of the hill. Archie, in his flight, took a different
line to that which the dog had followed. Hector was already out
of sight, and although his deep baying might for a time afford an
index to his direction this would soon cease to act as a guide, as
the animal would rapidly increase his distance from his pursuers,
and would, when he had overtaken the king, cease to emit his warning
note. The pursuers, after a moment's pause for consultation on the
crest of the hill, followed the line taken by the hound.
The men-at-arms paused to throw aside their defensive armour,
breast, back, and leg pieces, and the knights relieved themselves
of some of their iron gear; but the delay, short as it was, caused
by the unbuckling of straps and unlacing of helms, increased the
distance which already existed between them and the hound, whose
deep notes, occasionally raised, grew fainter and fainter. In a
few minutes it ceased altogether, and Archie judged that the hound
had overtaken his master, who, on seeing the animal approaching
alone, would naturally have checked his flight. Archie himself
was now far away from the men-at-arms, and after proceeding until
beyond all reach of pursuit, slackened his pace, and breaking into
a walk continued his course some miles across the hills until he
reached a lonely cottage where he was kindly received, and remained
until next day.
The following morning he set out and journeyed to the spot, where,
on leaving his retainers more than a week before, he had ordered
them to await his coming. It was another week before he obtained
such news as enabled him again to join the king, who was staying at
a woodcutter's hut in Selkirk Forest. Hector came out with a deep
bark of welcome.
"Well, Sir Archie," the king said, following his dog to the door,
"and how has it fared with you since we last parted a fortnight
since? I have been hotly chased, and thought I should have been
taken; but, thanks to the carelessness of the fellow who led my
hound, Hector somehow slipped his collar and joined me, and I was
able to shake off my pursuers, so that danger is over, and without
sacrificing the life of my good dog."
Archie smiled. "Perchance, sir, it was not from any clumsiness that
the hound got free, but that he was loosed by some friendly hand."
"It may be so," the king replied; "but they would scarcely have
intrusted him to a hand friendly to me. Nor would his leader, even
if so disposed, have ventured to slip the hound, seeing that the
horsemen must have been close by at the time, and that such a deed
would cost him his life. It was only because Hector got away, when
the horsemen were unable to follow him, that he escaped, seeing
that, good dog as he is, speed is not his strong point, and that
horsemen could easily gallop alongside of him even were he free.
What are you smiling at, Sir Archie? The hound and you seem on
wondrous friendly terms;" for Hector was now standing up with his
great paws on Archie's shoulder.
"So we should be, sire, seeing that for eight days we have shared
bed and board."
"Ah! is it so?" Bruce exclaimed. "Was it you, then, that loosed
"It was, sir," Archie replied; "and this is the history of it;
and you will see that if I have done you and Hector a service in
bringing you together again the hound has repaid it by saving my
Entering the hut, Archie sat down and related all that had happened,
to the king.
"You have done me great service, Sir Archie," Bruce said when he
concluded his tale, "for assuredly the hound would have wrought my
ruin had he remained in the hands of the English. This is another
of the long list of services you have rendered me. Some day, when
I come to my own, you will find that I am not ungrateful."
The feats which have been related of Bruce, and other personal
adventures in which he distinguished himself, won the hearts of
great numbers of the Scotch people. They recognized now that they
had in him a champion as doughty and as valiant as Wallace himself.
The exploits of the king filled their imaginations, and the way in
which he continued the struggle after the capture of the ladies of
his family and the cruel execution of his brothers and so many of
his adherents, convinced them that he would never desist until he
was dead or a conqueror. Once persuaded of this, larger numbers